Some of the works resonate politically. Baghdad shows the city as it appeared in 1943, then later under Saddam Hussein, and as it appears today with its splintered sectarian neighborhoods and color-coded zones of occupation. The artist insists the works are apolitical, and strictly speaking, he’s right. Every bit as dispassionate and journalistic as his erstwhile transcriptions of natural decay, sculptures like Baghdad also raise the question of whether an artist can portray a place through time without editorializing.
Formally the works exult in layered three-dimensionality and shadowplay. Upon close inspection the lines reveal a jagged, hand-cut appearance incongruous in light of the works’ overall fastidiousness. Whether these rough edges add a welcome human touch or an unwelcome lack of finish is an open question. Two other strains of work in the show—a red-and-blue study of the Brahmaputra Delta and a text-only piece based on an antique map of London—point to Picton’s overarching paradox: He is a conceptual artist (and a deconstructionist at that), yet despite his increasingly Platonic inclinations, he never strays from the terra firma underlying even his most ethereal works.
SEE IT. Pulliam Deffenbaugh, 929 NW Flanders St., 228-6665. Closes Oct. 27.