Tucked into a stripped-down space in the upper reaches of a building beside the High Line, Hesse Flatow gallery displays Plum Cloutman’s work almost in secret. Not actually, of course—the U.K.-based painter and printmaker’s solo show has been quite popular thus far. But the out-of-the-wayness of the space, which involves a five-story ride in a brass-plated elevator, is conducive to the reveries of the work. The young artist’s paintings sparkle like gems, and emerge from their surrounding whiteness with a hushed exhibitionism. They evoke, in a city full of art that clamors be seen, the quiet intimacy of a private encounter.
Each of the sixteen paintings in “Emergency,” Cloutman’s current show at Hesse Flatow and her first in the United States, depicts a private scene with beguiling intensity. The spatial configuration is tight, as if seen through a keyhole; though every piece includes, in some form, a human figure, we see little more than a single wall behind them and the furniture they conspire with. These glimpses are more complex than they initially appear, with little games of perspective and arrangement playing out inside whorls of paint. Cloutman composes her works with a combination of pastel, oil, and watercolor pencil—the mesmerizing result of this mélange is foggy, textural, glistening. In the most literal sense, what we see before us is obscure. Displayed flat on tables in the Hesse Flatow space, these scenes are easy to examine and difficult to exhaust.