Vacation’s All He Ever Wanted

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Published May 19, 2009

In his debut solo show of drawings “Dark Systems” at Deitch Projects this past winter, Evan Gruzis conjured the noirish world of Bret Easton Ellis novels, complete with Day Glo cotton candy colors, wayfarer-wearing apparitions, palm fronds, digital timepieces, and drawn open Venetian blinds. Gruzis was a painter before he started the MFA program at Hunter College, but his ink on paper works have drawn so much attention that he temporarily put his painting aside. In “Touch of Grey,” his first show at Brooklyn’s The Journal Gallery, which opened Friday, he exhibits both paintings and drawings and has created a small suite of images based on a recent visit to the palm-frocked shores of Florida. The works on paper focus on what’s been washed up in the wake of recent disasters, both natural and manmade. Beach scenes include foreclosed homes and rotting fish heads, kitsch t-shirt quality graphic design and the flora and fauna of Margaritaville. The surface of one small painting of a lush, idyllic landscape “Crack is Wack, French Antilles (2009),” has deep, veined fissures that break up its surface as if too much humidity and sunlight cooked it.  A seductively backlit drawing of an angular skull and pineapple is a slick momento mori that would have made Gauguin envious for its juxtaposition of tropical beauty and menace. With the a skull paired opposite a pineapple, a universal symbol of welcome, the composition could be interpreted to read with lucklessly cheer “Welcome to Death.” Gruzis’ sharply focused drawings and fractured paintings in “Touch of Grey” ask what hurts worse: a financial disaster or an economic one?

“Touch of Grey” is on view through June 14. The Journal is located at 168 N. 1 St, Brooklyn.