Monday, August 4, 2008

The Cyclops and the Siamese Peens

Last weekend Club Awesome brought a little happy-go-lucky to Beep Beep Gallery.

Last time I saw them play, they were opening for Captured By Robots and giving the crowd a strip tease (sans the white tiger mascot). Mehgan and I debated whether they intentionally slurred their words so that their voices were used more as additional instruments or if they were just difficult to understand.

Artist Alex Kvares made it out (in the hat) and Virginia (in the blue and holding the cool Lomo camera with circular flash you can't see).

All the hub-bub was for the closing of "A Paradise for Couples Only" a two-person exhibition of work by two former Golden Blizzard members, Ann-Marie Manker and Jason Butcher.

I'd have to say this is was one of my more favorite shows I have seen at Beep Beep - maybe the most daring? most provocative? most complicated? The works of watercolor and drawing seemed straight from the subconscious, both artists pouring their emotionally and sexually charged right-brain dreaming onto the page. Embarrassing admissions, troubled fears, guilt and longing, all drawn by hand like naked little secrets.

"Micturation Series" - graphite and ink on paper

Jason Butcher's drawings come across as more blatant in their pondering than Manker's more symbolically filled, saccharine dreamscapes. Butcher does not hesitate to to distort the figure and other recognizable forms as a direct mode of reference, as if these compositions are film stills from a mind operating free of language and separation between objects.

The arrangement of small pencil and ink drawings are economical yet complex, the subject of each drawing trapped within its own cycle of self-loathing, self-loving, confusion.

"Micturation Series" - graphite and ink on paper

Sexuality is the rampant issue (which, admittedly, is always my favorite subject) and Butcher focuses largely on the male form, concentrating on and distorting, the face and the peen - arguably the two body parts which most constitute a man's personal identity (or at least this is what the drawings may imply).

All of the drawings were excellent, especially "Jiggers of Semen."

"Wedding Bands" - ink, pencil, watercolor, on paper

Butcher's larger labyrinthine drawings had all of the rich imagery you could handle. Butcher writes about these larger pieces, "I seek to explore insular worlds of intimacy that couples create for themselves and the perspectives and posturing each must assume when reconciling one's life with that of a partner."

That is no easy feat to accomplish but Butcher is able to translate this visually without becoming obvious or cliched.

"Wedding Bands" -Detail

Smoke wafting into I don't know what, with crystals blooming out (crystals seem to be popping up everywhere these days - is this all the influence of David Altmejd? Doubtful, maybe The Dark Crystal?)

"Wedding Bands" - Detail

The level of detail in these drawings, the play between foreground and background, and the just-right amount of information given combine for something truly intelligent and intriguing.

Manker - "In that Moment Devine" - watercolor, ink, pencil on paper

The play of fine colored lines and thick black lines begins to break down the foreground in Manker's work. Certain objects and figures read as pasted onto a scenic backdrop, the realm of these drawings almost cartoonish. Manker references 1960's pop culture and the lyrics of Disney's "It's a Small World" ride.

"Down by the River of Love" - watercolor, ink, pencil on paper

Getting back to the point of the show, which is a sort of exploration of the relationship between a couple, Butcher digs into the duality of this private realm while Manker resides in the first person, depicting the individuals own fairy tale escapism, as if unable to meet the harsh reality of true love's rather mundane existence after the honeymoon.

"How I Brought Home a Son" - ink, pencil, watercolor on paper

One more interesting point about the subconscious world of Butcher's work. Butcher chose not to frame his drawings on paper because, as he puts it, "these drawings emerge from a very particular place - I didn't see them from behind a piece of glass." The white of the paper merges with the white of walls, as if the floating image seen could dissolve or transform at any moment into a new thought.

"How I Brought Home a Son" - detail

Like a new approach to getting a baby. Was it Jung who said dreams were the mind trying to problem-solve the issues resting most heavily on the subconscious mind?


Jeremy Abernathy said...

: )

I'm hard on cash now... Otherwise, I would have one of those Manker pieces in my possession right now. There was a startling lack of "red dots" on the wall...

Why, I ask, why?

Ben Grad said...

J - seriously. And the unframed prints were great too!

Jonathan said...

yeah - I wanted to take every one of Butcher's pieces home with me.

The work was definitely priced reasonably, I think the lack of sales is two fold, July/August is the most difficult time of the year to sell work and the work was also figurative and challenging - not the easiest sellers. But kudos to Beep Beep for not being afraid to show challenging work.

Virginia M Byers said...

My favorite piece didn't make it into you're blog :( It was one of the smaller pieces it was a sketch of a man with a head that is drafted out of boxes.
It was kind of architectural though (insert dork moment). I noticed that the smaller pieces didn't have prices or might have bought it. I was really impressed with the clean drafting.

I am developing those Lomo images now.

Anonymous said...

I also think that the reality of selling art is that it doesn't sell itself a lot of the time. Many galleries make very few sales to walk-ins or people attending openings, even if the work is really popular among other art professionals (who can't afford to buy much art themselves) - the buyers usually buy in private and as a result of knowing and trusting the gallerist and/or artist. Plus, the artist has to form long term relationships with these collectors who enjoy knowing the artist. There are exceptions to this reality, of course.

The work itself looks very good to me.

Jonathan said...

that's a good point and I think holds true for most established galleries. I would assume though that Beep Beep does target and depend more on the walk-in buyer. By keeping their prices extremely low, focusing on smaller wall-hanging 2D work, and by keeping no inventory, Beep Beep positions themselves to be an ideal place to splurge on a nice drawing to liven up an apartment wall.
Unfortunately, depending on kids in their 20's to have an extra couple hundred bucks ready to be spent is probably not a very steady market.

Jonathan said...

Anonymous - one more thought in regard to the collector "trusting" and forming a "relationship" with the artist. I think this is one area where Atlanta is still falling short, along with the efforts of the gallery and artist, it is also the media which builds up this interest and confidence in the collector to buy a paticular artist's work. Blogs, I like to believe, have the ability to help fill this gap, to persuade the collector to keep their wandering eyes out of NYC and in Atlanta.