French artist Gregory Chiha’s gripping and curious works conjure dark, imaginative inquiry. Realistic backgrounds are populated by vague, distorted figures depicted with thick, abstract, primary-colored strokes of paint. Dense forests and calm interiors stand solid and immortal in stark contrast to the fleeting vision of denigrating souls that vaporize amidst forces unknown. At times they seem aware of their morphing physicality, holding up their hands as if to shield their faces; other times they stand with arms loose and at their sides, giving in and letting themselves be overtaken by this unstoppable force. Some subjects appear to be participating in everyday motions when the event occurs: lounging in the living room, playing in a room strewn with children’s toys, staring into a mirror; others are roaming through sylvan groves – perhaps they went outside to address an unnerving sound or vision? One figure sits at the kitchen table staring at a loaf of bread; the subject ignites, though the bread, indissoluble, withstands. Are these figures ghosts trapped in limbo? Are they in the midst of taking their own life, or victims of an unspeakable tragedy such as a modern day Pompeii? Could these paintings be the depiction of the exact moment of death? Whatever is the nature of their contents, Chiha’s paintings lead to an abyss of theories subjective. However, their immediate intuitive impact stands inarguably emotional and compelling, dark and disturbing.
Christian Rex Van Minnen’s remarkable paintings showcase a mastery of traditional oil painting techniques that are paired wildly with a fascination for historical painting, witty humor, and a strong inclination towards the grotesque.
His still lives pay homage to Dutch vanitas painting yet, even using modes of traditional depiction, they expand to encompass modern sensibilities through the addition of present-day objects and graphic symbols; rainbows, uncanny mushrooms, Cretaceous plant life and hearts and stars accompany decaying flowers, rotted fruit, and scenic lands far away.
His portraits reference the unconventional Mannerist painter Guiseppe Arcimboldo, as well as contemporaries such as Glen Brown and Ivan Albright. Like his still lives, Christian’s portraits are conventional in composition and style, yet his subject’s faces are unrecognizable, malformed and undefinable. They are constructed from a cluster of earthly refuse; human and animal skin, organs and entrails, fruit, insect parts, fur, and textiles come together to emanate feelings of unease, horror, and wonder through intricate, realistic depiction.
Steven Kenny’s portraiture and figure paintings form a vibrant commentary on the nature of balance, sexuality, and that fickle concept: transcendence. Controlling a unique penchant for lighting and surrealism, Kenny has filled a rich portfolio with figures and dynamic echoes that pervade every sense with which we associate being alive.
Ubu Gallery is pleased to present GEORGES HUGNET: THE LOVE LIFE OF THE SPUMIFERS, an exhibition of hand-painted photographic postcards by the eminent Surrealist artist, poet, bookbinding designer and critic. These bizarre, lusciously painted images illustrate Hugnet’s work, The Love Life of the Spumifers, where each accompanying text poetically and humorously catalogues the mating habits of a fantastical creature or Spumifer.
The Love Life of the Spumifers, or La Vie Amoureuse des Spumifères, combines Surrealist poetry’s fascination with l’amour and Dada’s tendency towards deliberate grammatical spontaneity and absurdity. Made-up words, like bowoodling, friskadoodling and alabamaraminating, are concocted to describe the seductive strategies of his imaginary creatures. Each text is dedicated to a different creature, describing how it woos, teases, gropes and molests its intended love conquest. Each Spumifer is illustrated by a gouache “beast,” which is added to an early Twentieth Century vintage “French” photo postcard. The mellifluously painted monsters slyly slither around the bare flesh of the pictured “mademoiselle,” nibbling and tickling, arousing her sexual desire. Hugnet’s illustrations seduce the viewer, parodying the human pursuit of love and lovemaking through these adorable grotesques.
Hugnet realized the series The Love Life of the Spumifers during 1947–48 and wrote the accompanying texts in the early 1960s. The whereabouts of four of the 40 original Spumifers intended to complete the series are at present unknown. Hugnet composed only 33 texts and one of those texts accompanied a missing work. He created a number of additional Spumifers, maybe as many as 20, which were not part of the final 40 which he had intended to publish as a book. The show is on view until January 28th, 2012.