Marcel Duchamp once famously predicted that “retinal art” would vanish, and that ideas, stripped of sensuality, would someday rule. His prognostication certainly came true in conceptual art. But for rest of the world, including that of the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist Markus Linnenbrink, the notion doesn’t hold sway. For Linnenbrink, color isn’t just a means; it’s a riotous end that will likely transfix anyone whose taste runs toward finish fetish and abstraction. For out-and-out material inventiveness, I can’t think of a show I’ve seen in the past year that I have enjoyed as much as this.
In Nobodywhowinsfightalone, one of the most arresting pieces on view, hues that appear saturated up-close turn iridescent when viewed from across a room, like an anamorphic object that can only be seen from one angle. While the tonality of these works varies from pale to searing, our physical engagement with them remains constant. Throughout, the artist sidesteps logic, hierarchy or any sort of ordering when it comes to composition. Thus, viewers are challenged to create their own coherence, which is sometimes easy, sometimes hard, depending on which portion of Linnenbrink’s oeuvre you’re looking at.
A stripe painting like Blanquitos, which consists of wavy vertical lines ending in frozen drips, recalls the experience of trying to identify passengers in a limousine. The picture’s glossy, glitter-speckled colors seduce, but its reflective surface reveals only the faintest glimmer of the shadow-forms that lie below. It’s an optical treadmill.