Srijon Chowdhury’s debut solo museum exhibition metes out dizzying variations in style, genre, and scale. Yet his work’s coherence around the themes of life, death, and myth anchors the viewer.
Visitors are greeted by Pale Rider, 2019, a large-scale painting of an alabaster horse and its scythe-carrying passenger. The ground this reaper traverses pullulates with floral motifs rendered with varying degrees of verisimilitude—some resemble sea stars or star fruit more than blossoms. This otherworldly garden is bounded by a metallic-looking fence shaped to resemble text, which sprouts from the canvas’s base, and a crepuscular horizon inches from its top edge. Like much of Chowdhury’s work, Pale Rider is laced with allusions. The letter fence is composed from a distorted line out of a William Blake poem, while the image recalls the flat, tapestry-like works of Klimt’s “Golden Period” and horsemen portrayed by Rembrandt, Kandinsky, or even Clint Eastwood.
This sprawling, surreal picture is juxtaposed with concise feats of hyperrealism, as we see in other works such as Inez with Sunflowers, 2022, in which a moody child contemplates a fading bouquet. The titular arrangement of blooms is positioned on a table directly between us, so that the child’s upward gaze mirrors our own.
The crescendo of “Same Old Song”—the title of Chowdhury’s exhibition here—is a large gallery containing six monumental close-ups of two human eyes, a pair of ears, a nose, and a mouth. Each piece features a different tableau: A climactic water birth is emblazoned across an iris in Eye (Birth), while a figure resembling Saint George issues from the eponymous subject of Ear (Good), both 2022. On the lips that gird the hellish, fifty-two-foot-wide maw in Mouth (Divine Dance), 2022, one deciphers shadowy figures excerpted from Chowdhury’s other paintings. Doubles of both the pallid rider and the woman in labor are faintly visible.
Suspended across the gallery’s four walls, these images bring eye, ears, nose, and mouth together into a single psyche—one witness to a world teeming with martyrs, flowers, and demons.
— Sebastian Zinn