“What’s the most important thing to you in this show?” I asked the London-based artist Michael Raedecker. His two-room exhibition of new work at Grimm Gallery, called “now,” is loaded with references to ecological catastrophe, escape and the endangerment of humanity. Looking around, he answered, surprisingly, “Painting. How to paint.”
The mixed-media works on view are driven by craft and process almost as much as by their imagery: Raedecker starts with reference material, makes a painting, photographs it and prints it onto pieces of paper. Once those prints are transferred onto the surface of a new canvas, the translations often feel slightly jostled and echoed. Raedecker embellishes the re-creations with more painting and cobwebs of embroidery.
His images have the illusion of depth, from the prints, but also physical depth, from the applied handiwork, which he describes as deriving in part from his background in fashion. And although they’re pretty—the adornment by turns sparkling or lush—they are also direful, a sense felt in his previous shows at Grimm and, before that, at Andrea Rosen Gallery. The works parallel visitation (2021) and monument (2022) share an image of treehouses painted and embroidered in green on pitch black, possible havens that may instead be ominous—a kudzu-swamped redoubt occupied by endangered foragers approaching the end of the human world.
“This isn’t only pointing to the past, but to now and the future,” Raedecker said. Reversion looms. Suburban homes are overtaken by rubricated trees and gloaming in common chaos and quiet boom, while detail (all 2022) tucks a tent encampment into the dark. There are primordial images: depopulated pools glowing blue and a sepulchral cave in long term (2021–22), which is intimate and complicated and the finest painting on view. Its silver ground announces both dusk and dawn.
Other painters, such as Zlatan Vehabović and Nora Sturges, share with Raedecker not only visions of planetary mourning, but also a love of paint, which Raedecker identifies, in an echo of the pictures themselves, as what can come after a certain kind of finitude: when old possibilities seem extinct, new ones appear. After a feared end of painting, the practice fluoresces. And after the end of this world, something else may come yet. —Noah Dillon
Michael Raedecker, circuitous, 2022. Laser printer pigment transfer, dispersion, beads, glitter & thread on canvas, 72 7/8 x 55 1/8 inches. Courtesy the artist and GRIMM, Amsterdam and New York.