Kirk Hayes’s ‘Collages’ are Trompe-l’oeil Paintings

THE DAILY PIC: At Horton Gallery, Hayes, who has no formal training, has taught himself to confuse well-honed eyes—and minds.

THE DAILY PIC (#1760): These two paintings by the Texan Kirk Hayes are in his solo show in the little-known Horton Gallery, near Little India in midtown Manhattan. (I was led there by Joe Wolin, my all-knowing curator friend.)

Yes, “paintings,” says I, because all the details that make these works look so much like collage—the “masking tape” on their surfaces, the “shadows” cast by various elements in their compositions, the “plywood” that all this seems to be glued to—are in fact immaculately executed by Hayes in trompe-l’oeil oil paint. (Go on, click here to zoom-in on my reproductions. I dare anyone to get to the point where they can tell the relief is faked; even in person in the gallery it’s close to impossible to spot Hayes’s deception.)

As though that weren’t peculiar enough, the sources for Hayes’s pictures are in fact real collages that he’s made to exactly the same scale as the finished paintings. That makes Hayes’s paintings into pictures of art and thus into meta-art and conceptual painting. And of course, art—giving the finger and wielding its hairy stick—are also the subjects of these two works.

Hayes didn’t go to art school, so he’s in danger of being counted as an “outsider” artist. But his pictures plunge into as sophisticated a mise-en-abyme as any wiseacre with an MFA could manage. (Courtesy Horton Gallery, New York; photos by Matt Grubb)

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