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Philip Taaffe: Painting as Occult Practice

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John Yau reviews the exhibition Philip Taaffe: Recent Work at Luhring Augustine, New York, on view through June 15, 2013.

Yau writes: "Taaffe’s paintings teem with activity, moving from the visceral to the ghostly. Our attention keeps changing gears, never finding stability. Seeing is akin to excavation, to sifting through the details without losing sight of the entire arrangement or the different layers. Every symbol and sign seems to possess an arcane power whose potential is waiting to be put to use. Taaffe’s close attention to similarity and difference endows the paintings with a state of heightened seeing often associated with hallucinations. The radiant light coming from within the paintings, the oscillations and sudden shifts between figure and ground enhance our experience. I don’t think of his paintings as illuminated manuscripts so much as glowing screens. It seems to me that he has evolved from scribe to seer — a transmitter of trance states in a digital age."

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