Jeffrey Kastner on Pieter Schoolwerth

With a temper that frequently implies a trippy 20-initial-century recapitulation of Richard Hamilton’s iconic 1956 proto-Pop collage Just what is it that helps make today’s properties so distinctive, so desirable?, Pieter Schoolwerth’s latest performs propose a environment swollen to the place of disfigurement with the flotsam and jetsam of the capitalist now. The consumerist heartache at the main of Hamilton’s sardonic desire property was established on a welter of newfangled appliances, merchandise logos, and hypertrophically idealized male and woman varieties. For their aspect, Schoolwerth’s virtuoso paintings swarm with minimal-spending plan products and solutions hailing from the digital realm—digital bodies and configurations bought off commercial CGI marketplaces these as TurboSquid and then subjected to an array of deformations that disorientingly toggle, like so considerably of our modern day image sphere, between the repellent and the mesmerizing, the funny and the ominous.

“Rigged,” Schoolwerth’s show at Petzel’s East Sixty-Seventh Street room in Manhattan, took its identify from the “rig,” i.e., that infrastructural element of a digitally rendered human body (correctly its skeleton) on to which the figure’s outward physical appearance is attached. When the area sort, or “mesh,” is dislocated from the underlying armature, derigged types can be built to wobble and soften on the other hand the operator needs. Huge and strategically chaotic in their compositions, Schoolwerth’s paintings ordinarily focus on ensembles of these gloppily contorted bodies interacting in spatiotemporally garbled environments, each component translated from its algorithmic origin to the canvas with a combine of media and gesture—passages of boldly impastoed acrylic, flatly brushed oil paint, and photographic ink-jet imagery. Variously torqued and liquefied pixelated and polyhedral clear, stretched, break up, and slumped disaggregated and absorbent, these “poor images” are despatched out into the world to stroll a perilously strung tightrope. Nevertheless they are obviously impoverished—their psychophysical integrity thoroughly demolished—they are also liberated from the corporeal logic of their far more common programs. Hence emancipated, they are free to embody the instabilities that shape intersubjectivity in our epoch of simulation, dispersion, and ever additional etiolated modes of presence.

The eight paintings and 50 percent-dozen small, looped NFT animations (made collaboratively with Philip Vanderhyden and showcasing sound by Aaron Dilloway) on perspective, all from 2022, had been giddy in their narrative incoherence, depicting scenes as perpendicular to truth as the solid of creepily artificial components that populated them. Schoolwerth has been doing the job in this typical vein considering that the mid-2000s, but this latest suite ups the ante substantially, and any endeavor to explain what is going on in a provided picture immediately runs up from the perplexities of the artist’s berserk compositions and their puzzle-like unrealities. In Unicorn Landing Webpage Serious Estate (Rigged #16), for occasion, a group of what at first seems to be 5 figures collect together a perspectivally difficult beachfront, although nearer inspection reveals that the crew in point is made up of just 3 bodies. One particular lounges in a chair Mad Adult males design with a cig in his geometrically unfinished hand, while the remaining 4 are essentially just two entities and their shadow twins, a pair of resource illustrations or photos that have every single been duplicated and then radically altered. (This accounting does not, of program, involve the titular legendary animal that rears in the centre of the perform, its disguise coated with a distorted human encounter like a weird faunal car wrap.) The full point has the feel of a script for some sort of mild-beer commercial fed into a faulty AI with the express intent of creating a procedure mistake.

Some will work seem organized close to slightly additional legible classes of habits: Jungle Zoom (Rigged #6), for instance, proposes a kind of ménage à trois (quatre? cinq?) in which a gaggle of taffy-like bodies fade in and out of presence, engaging in different coital mergings for which genitalia appear to be fully optional. But most simply cannot be parsed with any degree of narrative granularity, and are instead intended to purpose generally as cautionary illustrations of the metaverse’s collective bad journey into the depths of the uncanny valley. Just about every painted graphic is, of study course, a fiction and a phantom, but in that zone where resemblance threatens replacement and digital identicality continuously slips just ample out of sync to open up up a chasm to revulsion, Schoolwerth conjures an even a lot more monstrous contemporaneity, gesturing toward just what it is that makes our personal current day so unique, so appalling.