The Monogamy Project

Tension-free marriage


By Cate McQuaid, October 24, 2003

Craig Stockwell calls his show at Genovese/Sullivan “The Monogamy Project,” aptly comparing marriage with painting. Both set up limits within which to explore sensuality, but those boundaries offer the possibility of greater and greater depth. 

Six paintings describe stages of development and fulfillment. Each begins with the same structure: circles drawn on a canvas, followed by a grid and a skin of yellow paint, over which some of the circles cohere into a shape similar to a club on a playing card. “Am a Boy” is the first and so intentionally the least finished of the works. “Am a Father” completes the cycle; here the form flowers and explodes in brash red against yellow. 

In between, Stockwell plays with ideas of painting. “Am an Adolescent” interchanges opacity with translucence, hiding with clarity. There’s also something orchestral, a swelling of violin strings, sincere yet overblown, again intentional. Similarly, “Is a Woman,” which turns the figure upside down and shakes it like a bell, aims without shame for beauty: Stockwell backlights the shimmering figure; he washes its background with pale rose and green. 

“The Monogamy Project,” is a smart, considered series of paintings. Each stands on its own as an accomplished work. They are, however, a little too self-aware, a little too explanatory, and a little too celebratory. I found myself wanting darkness to haunt them; I wanted desire, loss, or yearning to take me by surprise. The erotic requires a degree of tension that’s missing here.