These are not really reviews but on-line mentions of the Hands Against Hands show at Reena Spaulings Fine Art in New York, November 2015.
"Self-Consciousness" in painting mainly excused noodly paintings in rhetoric as sales adage's humble aggrandizing: a painter so conscious they cannot paint! Oh how romantic. Carpenter amped this to the level of broadcast, enacting the paralysis on the viewer. Attempts to unpack exhibitions as even description overflow, stacking sub-clauses and tangentials and questions of where to even begin with a vantage that can be continually shifted in attempts to circumscribe what is exactly at stake. So, a list: what is going on is that formally the paintings might actually not suck, this is big, because if they do, contain the possibility of formally not sucking, this means that the "conceptually orientated" Carpenter may be invested formally as a painter (and which he may never have not been to begin with) and if he is a formally invested painter, which he might be, means we would have to go back, reassess, though he may just be turning "on" for this exhibition a formal investment and never will be again which would make this a "conceptual gesture," Carpenter may not have even made these paintings, and would that matter, but what would that mean if someone can suddenly "switch on" a formal investment, and can formal investment be a joke if it is taken so far as to actually formally invest oneself so far as to make paintings which contain the possibility of not formally sucking, or is irony always overpowered by its sign, and is that even possible that Carpenter is not formally invested but is making paintings that don't entirely suck - and I brought a second party in to confirm the possibility of these not entirely formally sucking, which second party did affirm the possibility - and are these categories more useless than thought, but then what does that mean for so many formally invested painters who may or not be emotionally wounded by Carpenter's, or hired lackey's, ability to just pull 40 out of a hat, assuming they were so easy as to pull out of a hat, and what would that mean for "painting today," for then Carpenter to happily ironize 40 paintings with a ledger accounting the 40x40k = 1.6 million dollars of paintings underlining painting as cultural object of conspicuous consumption, and the whole art trope of symbolic cred to $ cash-in that many of the conceptual sort must resort, and Carpenter's obvious awareness of this, and again subclauses of whether awareness of an artistic scapegoating preclude that wiener from being eaten, and I would have thought Carpenter's paintings were selling for more than that at this point, and what does it mean that Carpenter is making paintings that have the possibility of standing at a level with so much championed painting today on formal level even as a self-aware ironic "conceptual" conceptual cash-in if this exhibition in fact is and if they do sell and if Carpenter is aware of all this, though the mirrored floor's reflection's points all point towards..., at all and if the painting do in fact not suck of course which we can not be sure, so switch those on and off at leisure, and one hasn't mentioned a Marxist or Bourdiean take on this en abyme.
– Contemporary Art Writing Daily, 5th December 2015
★ Merlin Carpenter: 'Hands Against Hands' (closes on Sunday) Known for making anti-painting paintings, this maverick British artist has taken 20 canvases portraying hands that he considered failed works and added further renderings of hands, these borrowed from another artist's photographs. More conventionally Expressionist than his usual fare, the results underscore that while Mr. Carpenter strives to subvert all notions of the artist's "hand," his own painterly touch has long been a saving grace. Reena Spaulings Fine Art, 165 East Broadway, at Rutgers Street, Lower East Side, 212-477-5006, reenaspaulings.com. (Smith)
– New York Times, 3rd December 2015
HANDS AGAINST HANDS