Odd Logic, up at Current Space until April 28th, is the collaborative effort of Dave Eassa, Louis Abbene-Meagley, Peter Ferguson, and Nicole Dyer, painters on the brink of BFAs from the Maryland Institute College of Art. The work is made to hang together. Citing neo-expressionists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat among their influences, they have all encouraged one another’s self-accepting forms of expression. They even collaborated on their promotional image, sitting around one canvas painting a picture that includes handwritten information about the show. For the past year, working in studios close to one another, they have each navigated their own emotive kluge of private and social self. The results are sloppy, inexplicable, and refreshingly candid.
Eassa’s Win Some Lose Some (detail below)
At first I thought the mess obscured the work. Nothing indicated to me that the show is anything serious to look at; it doesn’t demonstrate careful planning, refined craft, or elevated art subjects. The grotesque pink men of Dave Eassa’s ‘You Win Some, Lose Some’ head off the show, visible from the sidewalk on Howard Street where occasional passersby gawk, balk, or burst out laughing at the figures’ outrageous purple penises. I thought oh, it’s this kind of work… impulsive indulgent, easy to exaggerate for sensational effect. But something drew me in that defied my tastes. There is a breakdown of hetero-normativity in the male figures’ awkward face-off, in no small part because of their half-mast genitals. Their confrontation evokes schoolyard warfare, naive but callous and brutal. A sense of humiliation for the figures creeps in, a visceral reminder of my own body and formative experiences. From here I began to see the logic behind the show.
Dyer’s Going Home w/ detail below
Portraying experiences ranging from uncomfortable party incidents to episodes of a strained relationship, Dyer’s self-proclaimed “diarrhetic poop shoot catastrophe” mixed-media paintings are inspired by moments in her recent present. Her pictures are loud, pungent tributes to suffering, mistakes, and intimacy, conveying the emotional nature of ordinary yet highly personal occurrences. From an enveloping first-person POV, ‘I Didn’t Think I was Going Home Tonight (It’s Just You’re Really Pretty)’ depicts an intense come-on by the monstrous driver of a car, whose meaty hand on the passenger’s thigh smacks of rape. The colorful, haphazard exertion of the picture enhances it’s heavy content, a phenomenon that defines the show overall.
Red Bandage Man Jumping Off On Command by Louis Abbene-Meagley
Abbene-Meagley links acts of physical movement with video game themes in his deranged paintings and sculptures, which he occasionally slathers with icing and toothpaste. ‘Red Bandage Man Jumping Off On Command’ consists of a taped-together hunk of materials approximating the game character Mario frozen in motion, apparently having jumped from a tiny platform resembling an 8-bit mushroom, over an ambiguous blue channel below, onto a brick and concrete block like the ones from old Nintendo games. His work draws on childlike spirit that has grown up, distorted by time and experience into a darker, demented energy that fuels the show.
Toothpaste and Icing
Ferguson’s starkly two-dimensional paintings are intuitive explorations of pictorial elements, providing some balance to the density of pieces around them. In the rear center of the gallery, his large paintings ‘Weird Winter’ and ‘Seasonal Awareness’ distort holiday icons into hefty formal abstractions, compositionally rich and providing tongue-in-cheek decor for the show. He also added playful Easter eggs to the space above eye level, including an eerie head silhouette peering over the air duct and a sketch of his own father’s likeness with a rosary, bristling exclaiming “SON, YOUR MOTHER WAS RIGHT!”
At the back of the room, a jumbled salon of small sketches, paintings, and sculptures exposes part of the artists’ process and their sense of fun in making work.
The title ‘Odd Logic’ is contrived from the senseless systems of self that the artists explore in different ways, and the unconscious form of the collaboration that they brought together without a constructed theme. The show walks a line of uncontrollable honesty that varies between putting one’s own shit on display and standing naked and vulnerable to blanket criticisms by toe-dipping audiences. Either way, the release is clearly a pleasure. Rather than try to penetrate the mess, I relaxed and let it surround me, taken by the delightful obscenity and rude passion of it all. ‘Odd Logic’ has a lot of expressive momentum. With self-conscious naivety and a sense of humor, the artists plunged inside themselves, coming out strong and shameless as a group. They have achieved a satisfying experimental show, and from here, their union has potential to evolve into something really special.
Hung in the new solo photography showroom at Current is an exhibit of Elle Perez’s Into the Woods project, powerful work that deserves a review all to itself. Both shows are open for final viewing tomorrow and Sunday from 12-4PM.
Author Mac Falby studies photography and humanities at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Class of 2014.