Hunter Biden’s Solo Exhibition: Emotionally Honest, Generically Smooth

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Art Review

The president’s lad has turned to creation arsenic a career. “The Journey Home” is his archetypal solo exhibition.

Hunter Biden’s archetypal  solo exhibition, astatine  Georges Bergès Gallery successful  SoHo, with much  than 2  twelve  paintings crossed  2  floors.
Credit...George Etheredge for The New York Times

Nov. 5, 2021, 1:03 p.m. ET

Hunter Biden is an emerging creator from Wilmington, Del. He is now, similar nary shortage of emerging artists, based successful Los Angeles, but dissimilar them helium is making his debut successful New York astatine ample scale, with a solo exhibition astatine the Georges Bergès Gallery successful SoHo. The amusement is titled “The Journey Home,” and it is not small: much than 2 twelve paintings, works connected insubstantial and overpainted photographs, installed crossed 2 floors, melodramatically spotlit. Circumstances necessitate that the amusement is presently unfastened lone by appointment. When I saw it this past weekend, I was greeted by a information defender charged to support the unit from decease threats.

Mr. Biden, though not trained arsenic a painter, has been making creation since childhood, and I tin accidental that the amusement is more important than an amateur’s dabbling. (He was formerly a lobbyist and backstage equity boss, though you tin inactive person an creator disposition down the desk: Paul Gauguin was a stockbroker, Jeff Koons a commodities trader.) I tin adhd — and possibly I should displacement present from the connection of New York critics to Washington diplomats — that it’s not the benignant of accumulation that would marque a existent M.F.A. pupil consciousness jealous oregon unsophisticated by comparison.

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Credit...George Etheredge for The New York Times

The astir pleasant of Mr. Biden’s paintings are abstracted florals and landscapes, composed of layers of watery pigment connected Yupo, a nonabsorbent synthetic insubstantial (actually much similar a plastic) whose absorption permits casual marbling and coating. The creator blows the ink done a metallic straw, resulting successful exploded blossoms that look similar lily pads, dandelions scattered by the wind, oregon viruses nether the microscope. They’re pretty. They person the generic smoothness of the creation you mightiness spot successful a posh edifice room, oregon the extremity papers of a archetypal edition. Certainly they show a bid of the fluid mean that reflects a seriousness of purpose, adjacent if you hide them days oregon minutes later.

Mr. Biden takes greater risks with his paintings connected canvas, for amended oregon for worse. Some satisfactory abstractions coalesce from hundreds of blocks of coagulated color, divided by achromatic rivulets into maplike forms. With a small much time, these abstractions whitethorn borderline toward thing similar the creation of Fred Tomaselli, who pushes abstraction into the cosmic and the psychedelic.

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Credit...George Etheredge for The New York Times

But past determination are leaden images of achromatic birds, surviving and dead. Ghastly new-age portraits of a bald person, oregon possibly a bald extraterrestrial. A self-portrait successful marbly blues and purples that would acceptable successful good astatine the Burning Man festival. Signs and styles blend accelerated and arbitrarily: accretions of pigment à la Mark Bradford, dense expanses of dots that callback Indigenous Australian painting, a Californian excavation successful tribute to David Hockney (though Mr. Biden’s has bizarre, distended quality hands arising from the water).

Mr. Biden has described his creation arsenic “literally keeping maine sane,” and much than 1 coating present features substance detailing his addiction and recovery. (“He began to constitute a caller story,” reads the trippy self-portrait.) The coating of the bald fig bears a citation of the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides. Mr. Biden has scrawled these quotes, curiously, successful a golden overgarment marker, the benignant of craft-shop instrumentality beloved of scrapbookers. The golden marker recurs passim this show, outlining bare trees and upland ridges, rounded Gaelic characters, and rather a fewer snakes, immoderate of which look to person been done with a stencil. The snakes whitethorn person immoderate idiosyncratic significance, molting and rebirth and each that; the symbology whitethorn also, much than anything, conscionable suggest being a dude.

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Credit...George Etheredge for The New York Times

All of this feels alternatively random, alternatively personal, alternatively ingenuous. If the painter’s sanction has inflamed immoderate observers inactive litigating the past election, the amusement enactment maine successful caput little of Mr. Biden’s begetter than of a consequent nonmigratory of Number One Observatory Circle: Karen Pence, who utilized her clip successful the vice president’s mansion to beforehand creation therapy for the traumatized and the recovering. On 1 point, astatine least, Mrs. Pence and Mr. Biden would surely agree: Painting and drafting tin bash wonders for a person’s self-esteem and self-worth. As for nationalist esteem, that whitethorn beryllium different matter.

The Journey Home: A Hunter Biden Solo Exhibition
Through Nov. 15, Georges Bergès Gallery, 462 West Broadway, SoHo; 212-475-4524. Visits are by appointment; the assemblage says it plans to unfastened to the nationalist connected Nov. 11.

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