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A nude, blond man with a muscular-looking tongue is licking the rim of a mod glass vase in Brett Reichman’s painting, Gildcraft Italia Mondrian Vase (Rimming Mondrian). The painting, painstakingly meticulous and done in hand-made egg tempera, is named after the Mondrian vase. The parenthetical plays on words—or makes a blatant sex joke—and the man holds the vase with another pair of masculine hands protruding from the painting’s edge.
All of the works in Reichman’s new show at CB1 Gallery, Better Living through Design, take their titles from mid-century design objects that the artist actually owns. These items serve as enviable set pieces for fantastical romps that, were they glossy photographs, could easily belong to a cheeky porn centerfold. In one painting, Royal Haeger Vase with Hollywood Regency Table, a fair guy with a serious-but-boyish face holds a darker, mustachioed man over a regency table. The mustachioed man has his legs splayed, and it looks like his penis is about to go right into the opening of a smooth, green vase. In another, a Selig Z chair provides a vehicle for simultaneous fellatio. Reichman’s virtuosity as painter (perfectly rendered veins and muscles) both accentuates and offsets the tawdriness of the subject matter.
It’s funny how squirm-inducing this combination is: real skill and time spent on kinky scenes populated by the “tasteful” design objects that creative types crave. Velvety black frames surround each painting, too. But this discomfort is what makes Reichman’s paintings good. Imagine one of them hanging in a Silver Lake apartment, maybe above an actual Selig Z chair, or above a teak table topped by a carefully placed potted plant. Reichman’s painting would expose minimalism as the indulgence that it is: an expensive, sexy fantasy of subtlety and control.
Brett Reichman: Better Living Through Design runs November 7–December 19, 2015 at CB1 Gallery (1923 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90021)