Peter Cain

Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

September 9 – October 22, 2016

Matthew Marks is pleased to announce Peter Cain, the next exhibition in his galleries at 522 and 526 West 22nd Street. The largest and most comprehensive exhibition of Cain’s work to date, it features paintings, drawings, and collages made between the late 1980s and 1997, when the artist died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of thirty-seven.

Peter Cain first became known for his paintings of automobiles. Painted with care and precision, their gleaming surfaces intensify the seductiveness of the advertising images on which they were based. (Klaus Kertess called them “literal and figurative icons of autoeroticism.”) The exhibition includes the full scope of these paintings, from classic muscle cars to late-model sedans. Prelude #3 (1990), for example, depicts a Honda sports coupe that the artist has distilled down to a wheel wrapped by a single fender. Like many of his paintings from this period, it began with an image cut from a magazine and reconfigured into a hallucinatory new form. Several of these automobile collages are on view for the first time, along with preparatory sketches, source photos, and notebooks from the artist’s archive.

The exhibition also includes drawings and paintings based on three photographs Cain took of his boyfriend Sean. Part figure studies, part landscapes, they depict the subject’s reclining head, neck, and shoulders on a sandy beach. Made in 1995, they were a departure from the car paintings, a development Peter Schjeldahl hailed as “the creation of a new high style able intelligently to capture intimate nuances of contemporary Eros on a public scale.”

The following year Cain began another body of work: paintings and drawings of Los Angeles gas stations and chain stores. Rendered with the same attention to detail as his other works, they omit all typography from the commercial landscape, a method of abstraction similar to the distortions of the car paintings. 

This exhibition celebrates the publication of Peter Cain, the first complete monograph on the artist’s work, featuring essays by Beau Rutland, Richard Meyer, and Collier Schorr, and illustrated with over eighty full-color plates of the paintings, drawings, photographs, and collages, as well photos of the artist’s studios, plus notes and ephemera from his archive, much of it published here for the first time.

Peter Cain was born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1959. He moved to New York in 1977 to attend art school, and he lived there until his death. His first one-person exhibition was at Pat Hearn Gallery in New York in 1989, and since then his work has been shown in museum exhibitions across Europe and the United States, including the 1993 and 1995 Whitney Biennials. His first one-person exhibition with Matthew Marks took place in 1992, the year after the gallery opened.

Peter Cain is on view at 522 and 526 West 22nd Street from September 9 to October 22, 2016, Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.