Trompe l’Oeil Below Canal Street

Jeremy Shockley at The Hole Gallery, Feb 25–April 22, 2023 Kye Christensen-Knowles at Lomex Gallery, March 17–April 22, 2023 Hadi Falapishi at Andrew Kreps Gallery, Feb 24–March 25, 2023

Jeremy Shockley, “Show me Everything” (2023) 72 x 60 inches

It seems that the “Cubism/ Trompe l’Oeil” show at The Met has had immediate effect——well, not the Cubism part, just the trompe l’oeil part, three out of four galleries I visited the other day were showing it. Whether it’s the artists who have been inspired to create the illusions or it’s the curators who have decided to show it, I’m not sure.
The way Jeremy Shockley does it is by combining scenic painting (meant to be seen at a distance and as a background to another activity) with close-up detailing—the cut edge of the canvas has a delicate fringe. It doesn’t quite work because of the difference in scale and because as in Show Me…, the large area of the painted sky is slipshod. Once you’ve “gotten it”—i.e., recognized the happy face—there is nothing more to see. He is painting a defaced canvas but he leaves out half of the joke of it—which is that it was a painting of the sky to begin with.


Jeremy Shockley, “Hour Glass” (2023) oil on canvas, 40 x 32 inches

A much smaller work, Hour Glass works better because the wood frame is meticulously painted and the ocean recedes and the sky advances. Perhaps just because it is meticulous it has more presence. I can’t find who said it but there is a quote about Henri Rousseau that suggests that he made his work important by the sheer conviction and care he brought to it. Trompel’oeil is like that too—it doesn’t work if the artist is only working for a quick effect.


Kye Christensen-Knowles, “Untitled” (2023) oil on linen, 14 x 14 inches

In the same building as The Hole Gallery, Christensen-Knowles was showing at Lomex. There is a Persian carpet splattered with paint on the floor. He made this beautifully transparent painting of a detail of the carpet with a piece of paper lying on top. Nothing in the rest of the show comes up to it or explains it. I googled his work and came up with some typical Gothic fantasy—monsters, angels, etc. in blues and pinks and greens—and other works in this show include some tortured-looking figures.


Kye Christensen-Knowles, “Painting” (2023) 60 x 45 inches

Christensen-Knowles also paints that well-worn theme, the back of a painting—with the twist of angling the canvas and emphasizing the surface with a couple of white squares. It is an unusual trompe l’oeil painting in that it comes across as harsh and ominous in a genre usually known for its charm and intention to amuse.

Hadi Falapishi, “Almost Perfect” (2023)

The dado and the curtain in this large canvas hanging are a nice quote from another kind of trompe l’oeil— interior decorative painting. I really don’t know the sense in which this title, which is also used for the whole show, is meant but for me after looking at any of the works, I turned away with a feeling of disappointment. But I looked at this painting the longest—it “almost” works.
The show is a conglomeration of disparate objects: paintings in various media, copies of paintings, children’s drawings, ceramics, etc. I suppose the faked children’s drawings are the worst.

Falapishi has a glib facility that I would say robs his work of all meaning.
I can’t tell if Dr. Stephanie Swales disagrees with me or not on that:

“As psychoanalysis demonstrates, our viewpoints and experiences revolve around how we encounter the lack at the heart of subjectivity and the lack in any socio-symbolic matrix. In other words, whether we are encountering an art exhibition or a lover, fantasy structures our experience.”

But she does go on to say: “Memory and history, both personal and societal, shape how you find something of yourself when making your way through the exhibition.”
I suppose it is a complicated question. Where I see meaningless references, she sees images of her own “lived childhood.” I want to see a picture that concentrates my attention and evokes an emotional response, while Swales and obviously many others are happier with scrolling through a succession of referential images that function as a spectacle. They may also admire Falapishi’s facility and jaunty narcissism either for itself or as an in-joke.

Hadi Falapishi, “Sheherazade” (2023)

There are a couple of paintings depicting Soviet-style realism and this pretty exact copy of Magritte’s Sheherazade with a slightly different face that I presume is the artist’s own.
Overall, the artist seems to be prancing around saying, “I can paint anything!”

Rene Magritte, “Sheherazade” (1950)


The difference is that Magritte presents the attractive but unknowable other and Falapishi presents the all-knowing self. 

And by the way I think The Met could curate another show called “Surrealism and The Trompe l’ Oeil Tradition.”



In this article about another of Falapishi’s exhibitions Swales mentioned that her comments would also apply to Almost Perfect.

Fantasy, the blind spot, and the art exhibition: Hadi Falapishi’s Young and Clueless
Stephanie Swales