Erik Brunetti & Jesse Edwards Vito Schnabel and PM Tenore / New York

April 30, 2014

In a small gallery on Clarkson Street in the West Village, Vito Schnabel and PM Tenore present the work of artists Erik Brunetti and Jesse Edwards. Brunetti is based in Marfa, Texas, while Edwards is based in New York. Both artists bring together a somber palette of warm earth tones in works that aesthetically are symbiotically paired. Thematically, however, they bring similar yet different agendas to the table — or in this case, the gallery wall. While both have an interest in branding, in Brunetti’s case this interest is quite literal. The artist uses animal hides as his canvas; he literally brands symbols and markings into the surface of the pelt. Since the work is framed and hanging, it has a direct relationship to painting, yet the subtle texture of the wiry hair also offers an organic quality that is the antithesis of a flat ground.

Unlike the painterly gestures of Edwards’s works on ceramic, Brunetti’s contributions are clean and defined, giving importance to their commercial symbolism but also negating the definition by literally reversing them. He removes some of the signification of an identifiable trademark or, in my personal favorite, TFW, pokes fun while also participating in SMS culture. His compositions are elegant and minimal, leaving much of the natural color and texture of the animal skin. In contrast, Edwards paintings, while small and contained within the ceramic frames of crafted televisions, are painted edge to edge with little left to the imagination. His subjects, also commercial in nature, focus on pornography and the animated characters of Walt Disney. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring anything new to the conversation. This series is a much less interesting version of paintings that John Currin has made with a thematic nod to Paul McCarthy. However, even in this ambitious attempt, the works offer little to be desired and aren’t shocking as much as they are just uninteresting. From a distance, this two-person exhibition is harmonious, but upon closer inspection, even though some of the intentions may be similar, one artist is able to visually and playfully communicate in simple yet aggressively physical gestures while the other tries to shock in a way that attempts to be antagonistic but instead comes off as flaccid.

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