Josh Dorman at Mary Ryan Gallery

st. tremble (all images via mary ryan gallery)

I first experienced Josh Dorman‘s paintings whilst interning at Pierogi Gallery a few years back. I remember the old topographical survey maps, tinted with age and layered with meticulously arranged shapes and images, colors flowing within and outside of existing contours, combining histories and facets of the past to embrace a dream that is reflective and inquisitive of the real world.

St. Ember

Viewing his new series of works at Mary Ryan Gallery was a refreshing reminder of my great enthusiasm for all things collage, especially if it invokes looking at and thinking about the world with fantasy inducing stories while incorporating an undercurrent of criticism, passive yet incisive questioning, and a loss of order or norm.


This is exactly what these paintings endorsed for me and I particularly appreciated their overwhelming cascade of images, and the filling in of existing grids within the map, tiny squares that must represent streets, brimming with shades of red and blue so that from a distance creates a smokey explosion of color, gradations of residue, or a conquering of abstract landscapes. This is especially seen in the works St. Tremble and St. Ember. These patches of color are centered, surrounded by an accumulation of objects and animals, images that have been cut and pasted (the old school way) from a vast collection of pre-photography illustrations. Specificity of location and identity of objects is blurred and insignificant, everything is given new life in a process of incorporation and re-christening into a surrealistic world of chance arrangement.

Untitled (If on a Summer's Night, A Traveler)

There is no clear narrative in these works. Rather I see it as a brainstorming gesture, an automatic process, a supposition, a inconsequential arrangement of form, that suggest dreams, a return to origins, a reverence for nature, a nostalgia for pre-industrial purity, a conscious forgetting of borders and territory infatuation. Manmade cultures don’t apply here. There is no beginning or devastating end. Just a continual progression of undulating landscapes.


Bridges are a main motif in these paintings, a seeming exodus from one point to another, yet we are unsure where they are headed, if it’s an escape, an emptying of spiritual inventory, a divide between the human and animal, or a convergence between the two. The combination of atmospheric washes of paint with the rigidity of bicycles, canons, and industrial devices coalescing with monkeys, elephants, and parrots instill a sense of experiencing a creepy dream as it unfolds, opening the vault of a chaotic mind attempting order and compartmentalizing, all in vain. In the end, specificity is nullified, ethereal and nameless prevails.


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