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eccentric doodle-like drawings and stoner-talk monographs make up Barnhart's new book


BY DAVE KIM

 

Perhaps you didn't know that psych-fold warbler Devendra Barnhart made art. This reviewer sure didn't, though Barnhart has apparently shown work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Art Basel Miami Beach. His drawings and paintings are quite good. Many are compiled in his new book, I Left my Noodles on Ramen Street (Prestel), and they resemble the runic scrawls of a methodical improviser who sets out to make a figure drawing and ends up with a geometric field (or vice versa). They're meticulousy crafted, but not without weird flourishes, somewhat like desk-doodle versions of Barry McGee, whose influence is invoked not once but twice in this book. The accompanying texts, however, aren't so great. Jeffrey Ditch contributes an essay, which is memorable only because it's hard to imagine him being a Banhart fan, digging the ululations of a genre the media likes to call "freak folk," though Deitch seems to know the artist intimately. The obligatory monograph interview is composed entirely of insufferable stoner talk that lends an unfortunate throwaway quality to the art that follows it. And then there's the poetry. "Polychromed gelatinous zooplankton skin is nothing new to me," Barnhart writes. "I've got plenty of it." Maybe it looks better than it sounds.