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Painting of frogs
Painting of frogs

Philip Taaffe, Panel with Larger Frogs, 2022. Mixed media on panel, 30 7/8 x 41 5/8 inches. © Philip Taaffe; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. Photo: Farzad Owrang.


Luhring Augustine Tribeca
November 12–December 22, 2022

In Philip Taaffe’s exhibition currently on view at Luhring Augustine, the artist explores the transcendent possibilities of symmetry and visual density. Through a series of prismatic mandalas, Taaffe’s mixed media works on panel set up painting as a form of New Materialist meditation, a relational way of seeing the world that challenges anthropocentrism and probes the ethics of our engagement with non-human kin. Taaffe’s aesthetic picks up alternative visual lineages, by turns acting as an ecologically-minded offshoot of the Pattern and Decoration movement or an update to the Arts and Crafts movement that accommodates digital editing processes and attendant metaphors of alienation rooted in glitches and formal aberration.

The repetition and symmetry in Taaffe’s work isn’t employed to stabilize any kind of authority, but instead cultivates a sublime density meant to evoke the quasi-spiritual impulse to reverence within abstraction. If the mandala sets up a system of priority that focuses our attention and slows our experience of time, here Taaffe creates an ecological meditation that wades into streams of sturgeons, mollusks, shells, and corals before exploring overgrowths of spiders, insects, and tree frogs. In his book The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World, David Abram outlines the purpose of magic, which he describes, through the non-Western and indigenous roots of this cultural technology, as any process that opens up an individual’s subjectivity to the natural world, to the concerns of trees and rivers and non-human intelligences. The role of the shaman, Abram explains, is to open up these sympathies to our environment—Taaffe may be engaging in a similar conceptual process.

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