Doron Langberg’s paintings visualize the comet streak of people moving through one’s life: the pulls they exert, the energies they radiate, and the colors they bring. In Likeness, his debut at Yossi Milo, the artist demonstrates how much empathy can be imbued in committing a person’s image to canvas. It’s a collection of work that’s as queer in subject as it is in form, wielding bold colors that warp his sitters’ features or throw them dramatically into relief. The effect is stunning, portraits that exceed their limits and become cosmic landscapes for one’s eyes (and heart) to wander.
It’s poetic that Likeness is the first solo show of paintings to be exhibited by the photo-centric Yossi Milo. Langberg’s studies capture fleeting moments when the world is lit up by a person’s energy, visualizing traces of an ambient glow that only master photographers perceive behind the lens. Both disciplines require intense focus and Likeness is all the more remarkable for including work that shows Langberg developing his eye in real time. Pink-hued “Lea” and raven-haired “Erika” form the basis for larger eponymous works, while “Oren” represents an important course-correction from head-on confrontation with his subjects to dreamy contemplation at a painterly remove.
Langberg’s larger pieces find him clear-eyed and flexing his arsenal of talents. The gorgeously busy “Daniel Reading” balances saturated colors, finely sketched figuration, and textured clumps of paint. “Jenna and Mackenzie” is a hazily romantic (and questionably sober) vision of a night out, while “TM in the Meat Rack” is evocative of a Wakefield Poole film: a queer figure suspended in borderless space slowly materializing into the shape of pure desire.
But it’s the beautifully rendered sex act in “Zach and Craig” that is most emblematic of the show’s spirit, an intimate encounter shared between painter and subjects that extends past the limits of figuration and into the realm of infinite feeling.
Likeness continues at Yossi Milo Gallery (245 Tenth Ave, Chelsea) through October 19, 2019.
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The first lecture is on the relationship between early portrait photography and diverse notions of US identity during the Gilded Age. Register to attend on January 25.
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Part of the university’s Artists on the Future series pairing renowned artists with cultural thought leaders, this online event is free and open to the public.
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