To pair the work of Tsherin Sherpa, a painter of traditional Tibetan devotional images, with that of Carl Baratta, a young Chicago-based artist whose appropriated influences mingle like unprotected swingers (thus the title “Culture Mutt”), is to lose a grasp on history’s foothold. The comparison leads to a fine mess of sources, confusing the direction of influence to an entertaining if not critical end. While neither artist is indebted to the other, the logic of their paintings is analogous: to cement a universe of symbols over a scaffold of fiction and belief. Tsherin aims to prompt viewer transcendence whereas Baratta best succeeds at describing a Pop-infused personal mythology using humor. One is more of a witness to Baratta’s pictures than to Tsherin’s world of religious control, although taken together, it is enjoyable to momentarily pretend that both hold equal weight. Tsherin’s precision ultimately trumps Baratta’s witticisms, although the subjects of hero worship and the exaltation of violence are urgent contemporary topics, of which Baratta may prove to be an insightful commentator.
Published in Newcity (May 2, 2007)