Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The Scandalized Mask at Josh Lilley

A couple of strides in from the door of Josh Lilley Gallery is a faux-wood, round-legged, knee-high coffee table. Its surface has been causally strewn with Hello and Men’s Health magazines. Behind it, bright-blue upholstered chairs with grey legs are arranged in twos, back-to-back. More seating lines the walls, breaking at the corner to make room for a potted plant. This is, without doubt, the quintessential waiting room, but there is no receptionist sat at the gallery’s white desk, and the space is eerily still.

Photos on the walls show a disembodied animatronic head with skin too pink and eyes too green (Android, 2012), a hospital populated by manikins (Bedlegs, 2012), an eye (not a human one) held wide-open and wreathed by surgical drapes (Transplant, 2012), and most sinister, a doctor enjoying his time with a patient a little too much (Adjustment, 2012).

The doctor in question leans over his patient – a purple-clad, blonde-haired woman lying on a red doctor’s table – with his hands beneath her shoulder blades and a strained smile exposing his greying teeth. It could be an advert for an all-American physiotherapist, but the tone is disquieting, the more time you spend with the doctor, the more ominous his smile becomes.

Leaving the waiting room and heading down the stairs, it turns out there are no health practitioners in the basement-floor gallery space. Instead Brian Bress’s Whitejumper 1 (2012) stares back, although it doesn’t really have eyes, so perhaps it can’t really see you. It is a brilliant white, hairy, humanoid beast framed against the shiny stark black of a flat-screen monitor, and pretty soon, it begins to dance a primitive dance, which is to say, it moshes; a head swinging, body springing, fur flying flurry. The vigour of the dance causes bits of the beast to dislodge, little pieces of its white coat (which are hard, like short lengths of plastic) line the floor. Even when the dance slows, the beast has an impressive, hulking, faceless form.

Brian Bress, Whitejumper 1, 2012

Surrounding Whitejumper 1 is a grinning two-headed man, his form mostly obscured by a veil of yellow brushstrokes (Answers a Question with a Question, 2013), and a cockerel magician sporting a yellow and purple cape and huge orange shoes (Chooses His Words Carefully and is Good at Violence, 2013). These are the characters of Peter Linde Busk’s paintings. Whilst the cast of these two paintings is notably caricaturish, other works of his have been painted on heavily textured linen, the acrylic paint scuffing at its surface, leaving the forms in the paintings indistinct. Rather than cartoonishly sinister they become muffled and otherworldly.

Around the corner from these paintings hangs a crude, white-painted, ceramic face, another of Busk’s works, Characterkopf 1 (2012). A wailing mouth gapes below wide-open asymmetric eyes set under heavy brows. The face has a hanging quality; its features might be slowly melting and its surface is spattered with wart-like globules of clay. The white sculpture appears to be a protrusion from the gallery’s white-wall, an extension of the exhibition space.

Peter Linde Busk, My flag boy told your
flag boy, I'm gonna set your flag on fire
, 2013

A cockfight is occurring in the far basement room, except most of it has been covered up (Nick Devereux, Tajen, 2012). The graphic, monochrome photographic image has been overlaid with a clean white pastel drawing, which emulates the surface of paper. The forms, which appear to be simple geometrical origami shapes, loosely follow the motion in the image. A sequence of joined twisting boxes that represent both cockerels intertwined.

Devereux applies the same process to another image, this one a photo of Peter Bissegger’s 1981-83 recreation of Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau (1923-36), constructing a drawn-on fictional extension of the re-enactment. Blanketed with papery textures, the jutting lines of the cavernous Merzbau become clean and ordered.

Nick Devereux, Tajen, 2012

The name of the exhibition, The Scandalized Mask, is well applied. Introduced by Anthony Lepore’s archetypal waiting room with no doctor, patients or obvious purpose, ideas of anonymity and alienation are ably carried by the faceless costumes of Brian Bress and the obscured images of Nick Devereux, and the mysterious characters of Peter Linde Busk go one step further again, treading the path of the antagonist and the deliberately outcast. But the success of the show isn’t actually predicated on the thematic so much as strong textural and spatial curation.

The heady juxtaposition of Brian Bress’s gleaming HD video beast with Busk’s rough linen-backed paintings is made all the more resounding when contrasted with the at once banal and baleful, and in all senses not texturally exciting, waiting room that came before them. The rough, contorting forms of Busk’s paintings in turn provide a perfectly contrasting lead-in to the pristinely flat geometric nature of Devereux’s prints, which then guide the viewer to last piece in the show, Bress’s other monster, a shy, masked, cubistic builder.

Anthony Lepore, Adjustment, 2012

Travis Riley

Anthony Lepore, Peter Linde Busk, Nick Devereux and Brian Bress
The Scandalized Mask
Josh Lilley, London W1
24 May - 6 July 2013

No comments:

Post a Comment