“Painting is just pushing colorful mud around a surface with a stick,” a teacher once declared to my painting class. This was five years ago, and, at that time, it kind of floored me. But then it spurred me to rethink “painting,” and now I feel like I’m seeing paintings everywhere—on rain-soaked concrete, covered-up graffiti, and the way the sunlight hits the side of a building at the right time of day. Artists have been making paintings without really even using paint for quite some time now, putting aside the problem of the “image” and what it could mean, in favor of the “construction and destruction of surface,” as City Paper contributor Michael Farley recently observed for the blog Art F City about the New York-based NADA fair. The works in the show “surface surface (hey mr. goat),” at RandallScottProjects through June 6, aren’t literal paintings, but New York artists Chris Dorland and Joe Pflieger both explore surface, color, and texture in a painterly way without really getting their hands dirty.
The only sculpture in the show and maybe the most engaging piece, Pflieger's 'Earth Structure,' features two tall semireflective surfaces framed in steel and hinged together. On the more reflective panel is a large photo of a rocky wall with a metal triangular structure in the foreground, while a metal grid fits into the perpendicular transparent panel and houses no image. When I stand between the two panels, the mirrored one reflects the translucent one, adding layers of spatial depth to the photograph and to the whole piece. For a second it feels like there's another dimension to this sculpture but then I step back and remember that it's just these two screens that are somehow both folding into and leaning back from each other.