The Future is Bright
June 20- July 11, 2021
A while back I was prone to understanding Art as some great and inevitable plague that we are all working to cure and recover from. Maybe I was misled, or it was my own personal misunder-standing of deconstruction as destruction for the sake of itself. Whatever happened, I got over it. So how funny is it to face the real thing - at a scale I must admit eclipses the state of contemporary art - and to feel like it’s an affirmation. A true existential crisis and I feel prepared. What do you do when there is nothing to do? How do you get up and face the day, every single day, day in and day out? When there’s no moves left to make, what do you make? After being overwhelmed by dread for years, I had a realization that it’s an inherited trait. That I’m no longer content playing some-one else’s endgame. Why should I feel so hollow? I can look to those around me to see who has figured out a way to live. Scratching out personal meaning and trying to relate is vital. Exploring, revering, laughing at and playing with history we can find ourselves and make sense of this cruel and unforgiving hell we call Earth.
Zac’s use of self-deprecation and intense humor combined with a will to experiment could be confused for hard edged irony, but there is a consistent hammering of sincerity. It’s a razor’s edge to walk but the raw emotional quality of his diaristic text diptychs put all the cards on the table. In Suicidal Oil Piglet (Pornocrates After Rops), a sharp edit of Felicien Rop’s Pornocrates sits on top of a Howard Arkley-esque background. Arkley, arguably one of the most famous Australian painters, tragically died of a heroin overdose at the height of his career. From conversations with Zac, I’ve learned it can feel difficult for an Australian artist to make their mark abroad. It’s easy to feel literally trapped. Zac’s use of Arkley’s iconic neon Pop suburbia is an extremely personal background for a bonkers re-interpretation of Rop. His own face replaces the original pig’s; the putti are replaced with rats of the metropolitan sky (pigeons); the marble floor is instead cold indus-trial building material; and the courtesan figure with swine (emblematic of the French Decadent movement) are fading away while the icons of Fine Art cartoonishly suffer underneath them. “…i want love and acceptance…but embrace hate as a means of excorcism so as to be better able to accept love…”
Among many things, Christine taught me most of all to sit and be patient. How to move my eyes slowly over a painting and rather than read to absorb. She makes explosive corporeal paintings with devout labor and a refusal to intellectualize. In Maven, every mark, line, contrasting splotch of color, and shape is built from sensational reactions to each other and a close attention to the medium itself. Figures and images arrive from her subconscious not necessarily for narrative but for their potency. Her paintings privilege aura and immediate experience but burn into the eyes carefully and steadily. For work, she is a film set painter who is frequently asked to painstakingly fabricate decay and rot.
Poy paints in a family tractor shop in North Carolina. She moves unapologetically fast. In con-versation, a barrage of “likes” and cursing kilter insightful, original understandings of painting’s history. She has a unique ability to see and understand totalizing systems while being firmly dedi-cated to the carnal pleasures of humanity. Through this understanding and dedication, confidence and economy become key elements of her painting in pursuit of utter transcendence. Knife Grind-er and Elegant Couple twistedly riffs on the Jacob Duck painting of the same name. Duck’s figures become ecstatic anime bobble heads bursting and melting into machines and one another. Acrylic, oil, and dripping obstetric lubricant on an unusually rough surface sensationalize an already evoc-ative image. Sitting with her painting, I feel nailed to a wall but it’s a wall I want to be nailed to.
Veronica is the funniest person I’ve ever met. Good humor requires great intellect and can engage something serious by turning it around on itself. Humor can be smooth, jagged, soft, hard, dark, or bright. The best of it is all the above simultaneously. Veronica’s diminutive paintings of cats and food slyly call to mind the most familiar painting genres imaginable yet remain eerily uncanny. Of course, you’re looking at a portrait. Of course, this is a still life. The scale and touch of her paintings are intentionally disarming. They don’t need your understanding or your approval. You don’t matter. They exist in the flow of moments past, present and future. “For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes away” (John 4:14). Inspecting her closely, the eyes of Babett glow and her fur flows softly. She exists inside a violet dream in which your wildest fanta-sies come true, and she deserves your eternal devotion. The thing you once thought smallest in the room has become uncontrollably huge, filling your vision completely. Un Petit Déjeuner (“break-fast”) presents a sumptuous meal of strawberries and cream. You’ve been staring into the juicy red abyss of the berries for hours and petals from your delicate table arrangement have fallen into the peaks of the whipped topping. The Victorian era, silver, clamshell spoon you carefully picked out last night for this occasion pushes against the side of your linen cell. The room around you has disappeared completely.
What could I write about Richard? His paintings and his friendship remind me every day that what we’re doing, what we’re expressing, is real. That it’s not enough to simply illustrate one theory or the next but that you must be living and feeling and bleeding with the world, with your friends and lovers. That the figures from the past are real people connected to you psychically through what they made. That we are a part of history. That what we want is tangible in what we make. That what we’re doing comes at a price. To be a sensitive person is to be tortured by the world and your own thoughts. To feel alone. But hopefully, if you plug away at it, you might feel connected for even a moment. You will transmutate into something which others can reflect on, maybe even relate to, and possibly express the spirit of your time. He reminds me that you can in fact create a work of art. That if you let yourself be honest, if you can just for a second trust yourself, you just might make something worth looking at.
- Ramsey Alderson