Tuesday, April 27, 2010
What is the function of the grotesque and humor in contemporary art practices? Baktin in the History of laughter and Situation Comedy writes about the link between the grotesque and humor as a strategy to address contemporary society’s norms and ills. I'd like to look at specific art works that deal with a social commentary using the grosteque and humor as a point of departure. Courtney Johnson and Doctor Lakra are two practicing artist who's paintings and drawings awkwardly invite viewers to consider ideas of feminism, sexism and power. These two-artist deal with images of abject females having strength about them in grotesque forms. Courtney Johnson paints about feral woman free in the untamed Wild West and Lakras images of the uncontrollable sex goddess become threats to male centric societies. These images test our understanding of the role of gender and specifics of what could be our nature.
The nature of Johnson’s paintings reflect what Barbara Creed discusses in The Monstrous Femine; Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, as archaic mother or abject mother. The woman who exist alone, before and without men. These wild women are set in space's outside that of what we know as the pioneering days; a revisionist history of the wild west are portrayed in Johnson’s images. These images show women figures dying out in the plains of the wilderness. Women shaping the landscape with their existence. Johnson’s paintings of twin like figures refer to a simultaneous existence both being inside and out. The absence of the male figure and the portrayal of woman not as the picture of perfection but that of aging, decrepit, and seeping into madness comments on an art history where woman often are portrayed as beautiful and eternal, the object of male painters. Courtney’s paintings place woman as the subject and give agency to their actions and existence.
In Mexico, Doctor Lacra, an artist based in Oaxaca and Mexico City creates images of shit, penises sweating, spurting sperm, women as sex goddess massaging eyeballs and farting out smoke. Lacra chooses to make public work that invites people into a greater narrative of dismay through an abject humor. These images are drawn out in a graphic style using bold lines reminiscent of Mexican graphic novellas. The grotesque visual language used in these paintings comment on what can be seen as a masachonistic Latin American culture. The work looks at the physical beauty of women and past renderings of women as goddess . The sex goddess/object women in Lacra's paintings command a power over the lust stricken men. He paints men filled with grief and frustration due to the lack of control over these women. Lacra's sex driven images, public displays of people pooping, and strong bodied women bring the viewer closer to a reality that we choose to remove are self from.
These artist use the grotesque as a visual stratedgy in confronting status quo's and questioning roles that are socially encoded. Gender roles get looked at and turned upside down. The woman as pioneer, the man frustrated by the earth goddess. These artist both paint pictures narrating from the margins with a realistic take on how things really might be.
Monday, April 26, 2010
April 2010 interview conducted by George Pfau.
Chason Matthams is based in New York and many more images of his work can be seen on his Flickr page or at thefuckingchason.
GP: Your work allows us to re-view and re-think the human body in its many forms, what is your approach to human anatomy and what are your sources of information?
CM: No thought goes into the interior of the body, its all exterior, all surface. To the point where the body almost becomes a two dimensional plane only to be looked at , just like the images it is sourced from. It is there to be judged or admired and has no function let alone an interior of organs and muscles that would make it function.
GP: In various works you insert celebrities like Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Paul Newman. Why these guys? Who are you targeting now?
CM: Each celebrity represents a storyline for the viewer to project themselves into. Whether it is a personal fantasy of theirs they would like to live out or a way for them to empathize beyond their own experience. On the other hand some storylines turn you off from the get go and you either bounce right off the sheen, are angry with disapproval, or it becomes a mirror for your own insecurities. Lately I've been thinking about Spencer Pratt and how his relationship to his wife Heidi Montag, from the MTV show "The Hills", must be shifting as she becomes increasingly unnatural with plastic surgery. Is he attracted to her inhuman bits?
GP: In various pieces you depict cartoon and humans fucking, their bodies disintegrating and interweaving. Can celebrities be perceived as interchangeable with cartoon characters?
CM: In Scott McCloud’s book Understanding Comics he talks about how cartoons are so easy for us to connect to because through their simplification they become easier to project ourselves onto. I see some celebrities this way. Their storyline can become an archetype for the public. We associate with them in a universal way. The scorned woman, the comeback kid, the lover, the fighter, etc. So as children we believe in Mickey Mouse as the train conductor, the magician, the firefighter, whatever we want to relate to, as adults we can relate to Angelina Jolie as the mother, the sex pot, the successful businesswoman, the humanitarian, the action hero, the family woman. Celebrities become a more complex means for us to project our dreams and desires.
GP: Your painting technique ranges from photo-realistic, to graphic, to cartoony, to hockney-esque. How can these modes of rendering intertwine with each other?
CM: Some celebrities come off as perfect and larger than life, so they are painted in a slick and slippery style mimicking the feeling that we'll never get our hands on that or live up to it, an unattainable status. Others come across as full of energy and potential so I try to paint them with a vibrancy that is full of active brush strokes and energy. Others are just a mess, sloppy, we can't imagine why they are even famous, I couldn't be bothered to even finish painting them. All these options are on the internet and in the magazines. We have to pick them apart to figure out what is a valid use of our time, who inspires us opposed to who drags us off on a sinking tangent.
GP: So one of your aims is to create disruptions in the facade or the superficial illusions of pop culture and advertising?
CM: We all need someone to look up to, to teach us, to follow. Media figures can be solid inspiration for being ones best. Often though we follow false idols of our own creation. Its important to break things down and be honest with our intentions, wants, and desires.
GP: Some pieces like, "things, stuff, sugar, aspartame, appearance, activity, internet fallopian tube, outer labia, games, girl, picked over discounted outlet shit satisfy me now like you fucking owe it to me" [pictured above] depict a totally climactic moment. How did this piece come about?
CM: I was epically depressed to the dumb extent of asking my self endlessly what is the point of any of this shit. I started looking at all things I was being sold, that were supposed to satisfy me and being really fucking mad that none of it did. No duh, right? So it became super clear what excess it all was, it was a replacement, a distraction to feeling actual fulfillment. I felt like a predator, a shark that just needed to keep moving forward consuming more and more in order to go on, to just deal with the day to day. So in the drawing I am breaching the water eyes rolled back just blindly grasping at everything, anything that could possibly give me some satisfaction, when really I should just chill the fuck out, stay still, be present, and come to terms with what I was lacking, what I really wanted.
GP: What sort of decisions are you making when you reconfigure and distort bodies like in your beach scene for example?
CM: In that particular painting I was trying to connect with what each character's body image of themselves would be. I tried to paint them along the lines of how they thought about their body rather than just what my source image showed. Painting is good sometimes because it takes a good while to execute so I have plenty of time to come up with a storyline for each person, what celebrity they might see themselves as, what image they are ashamed they don't live up to.
GP: I'm really interested in your recent works "The logical conclusion of childhood fantasies" [pictured above] and "all eyes on me forever and ever" [pictured below]. How do you view the statuesque? Can the statuesque be seen as a counterpoint to the grotesque?
CM: I have a series of marker drawings of female celebrities on the beach that may speak to this question more directly. These girls have become famous because we like them, we elevate them to this level and put them on a pedestal. Being at the beach on vacation represents what should be the height of their success. They have earned their status and are on vacation enjoying it. But as a society we get jealous, we get angry at their statuesque perfection and we need to bring them back to our level. So there are these moments when they are not just a bronzed taught body and that is what the drawings are of, the chink in the armor where they are adjusting themselves. When we see them picking a wedgie or having a moment of doubt, we know they aren't secure in their perfection, they are just like us, they are imperfect, have insecurities, they have bad days, the make mistakes, they fart, they shit, have intestinal issues, get cancer, will die. They are not just an unattainable sheen, they are living, breathing humans.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
By George Pfau
Wim Delvoye : Cloaca (2002)
Keith Boadwee : Untitled (Piss in Mouth) (2008), Purple Squirt (1995)
Piero Manzoni : Merda d’artista (Artist’s Shit) (1960), Lines (1959)
Dennis Oppenheim : Two Stage Transfer Drawing (1971)
Artist as Drawing Tool (Ways to make a line)