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February 2016
Utah's Art Magazine: Published by Artists of Utah
Page 4    

Andrew Moncrief . . . from page 1

Moncrief’s exhibition of six works at UMOCA is an ideal marriage of subject and content, both bold and subtle, grabbing one’s attention but also igniting a wealth of meaning on closer exploration. It is the result of his recent sojourn in Salt Lake City—where he has friends—that offered a change of scenery and a chance, at Captain Captain studios, to work in a vastly larger studio than the one he occupies in Montreal.

These canvases each convey a pair of wrestlers, a tighter painterly method applied to the body, with liberal nuances of the form, including stroke and color, to express extremes of bodily and facial intensity. They are in darkened natural settings, which add to the intensity and ambiguity of the figures, who are locked in poses and positions that call to mind classical wrestling grips but are imbued with sexual overtones. The act of male-upon-male aggression in these painterly and compositional contexts read as a conceptual essay into a range of male relationships, from pure physicality, to energy and the emotion of sexuality.

“The Admiration,” a closeup view of two men, arms locked and heads pressed against each other, looks like a beginning grappling stance, but is just as convincing in other contexts, as two men in a moment of emotional or physical support, be it fraternal, an intense friendship offering comfort and solace in a time of intense grief, pain, suffering, or amatory. The color is overwhelming, not quite red, but a soft and purer magenta, even pink, with icy blues to temper the situation that may be a kinship of encouragement, and ultimately, the bearing of weight of another man, whatever the relationship may be in this situation, spanning the gamut of male bonds from competition to an intense love.

Along the same lines of male wrestlers, but deconstructing the stereotype of what is seen and commonly understood as simply the worldly concept of power, is the emotively felt “Innocence,” with its richly complex composition. The fighter to the left is rendered in loosely natural flesh tones, in patches of color that add to the figural intensity and gravitas of what is seen on his face, which is more clenched than his blurred fists, as if his concentration of all sensibilities is focused inward, while his robust arms are extended only to block the blows of his opponent. It might simply be physical pain or emotional turmoil, he may be holding back tears, but he suffers. Even more is the figure to the right, rendered in tones of cold, steely blues and near black that completely hide his face. This face buries itself in the oncoming arms of the left wrestler, and the effect turns from aggression to a clinging, holding each other, holding on for the sake of life itself; an expression of love is more than possible.

And Moncrief does not shy from this emotional dynamic, as he explicitly uses nude male wrestlers as an ultimate manifestation of physically sexual male interaction. In the large-scale “The Imprudent Boy,” combative angst finds an aggression released in sexual expression and fulfillment. “Boy” might be assumed as the dominating of the two, yet both have pale flesh of youth and beauty and the image abounds with aggression, sexuality, love and innocence. “Rest at Harvest” is no less innocent, yet the canvas suggests a mature and deeper assertion of the strength and potency of the male bond, of the physicality of male-to-male support and togetherness, with its underlying currents of sexuality and aggression.

Moncrief’s oeuvre may be described as an impossible desire to understand, and only through experience and the relationship of learning from a sense of discovery does the artist learn and discover, discover and learn, through this cycle applied in paint. The potent nature of these paintings, their conflicting surges of intimacy and aggression may or may not reflect Moncrief’s current experience as a gay man, but they certainly reveal a poignant artistic exploration of the ambiguous and sometimes conflicting nature of human experience. “These paintings have no answers,” says the young artist. “Instead, they are intended to act as self­referential questions that inevitably fail in their ability to be defined. This desire to define the figures relates to a direct desire to define myself, a seemingly impossible task for me.”

Exhibition Review: Salt Lake City
Don't Leave
Maxfield Hegedus and Suhnee Venice's True Love Waits at CUAC

I’ll drown my belief, to have your babies…and wash your swollen feet. Just don’t leave. Don’t leave.
 “True Love Waits”, Radiohead

Such desperate subjugation of self, in an effort to pair with another, to mirror love, to feel heard, feels strained and achingly heartbroken when recorded by Thom York. The song is a ballad, but a haunting one, for if true love is waiting, it is at a cost of the individual self which moans with all the vulnerability of a single voice and single guitar.

Radiohead’s 2001 single serves as the title for Maxfield Hegedus and Suhnee Venice’s current exhibition at CUAC, which hedges on the failed communication between two entities. Like the desperate strains of the song, the exhibition positions two artists, whose work revolves around each other without resolution.  There are devices for communication, such as a microphone, a speaker, and an antenna, yet such efforts at connection are fractured and failed. While one piece does speak, it’s in a computerized voice not a human one (or an angelic one as the case may be), and recites Peter Handke’s poem from Wings of Desire: “When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, had no habits … and made no faces when photographed.”

This poem is continually recorded by the microphone in the gallery, as are the comments and movements of the visitors. But the child doesn’t speak, doesn’t offer an opinion, and true love doesn’t wait. Rather, the revolving photographic sculptures move around each other like a sales pitch, a marketing effort, all posturing and spin without substance; the captured sound just echoes back a vanity mirror of the other voice without process, drowning its own.

If not true love waiting between two people, then maybe it is the love between the watched and the watcher, in this the age of continuous surveillance. The footage of a fish tank in a restaurant, holding several goldfish, being broadcast on a seemingly discarded iPad on the floor, echoes the work of Eva and Franco Mattes. The fish are being watched, the restaurant as well, but for what end does all this data accumulate?  What does it ultimately communicate? Does it capture the living reality of the human experience in the everyday or does it just kill time through existential nothingness, through the trivial and the fleeting? Similarly, the notion of a veil (as in surveil) is made physical by covering the antenna with sheer cloth, a form that most certainly references Duchamp and a fish bone simultaneously.  

The exhibition is organized by Michael Thibault, who runs an eponymous gallery in Los Angeles and is the first of a number of small group shows that will be organized in spaces away from his gallery. The show runs through March 11. This is the second time the artists have exhibited together, having recently participated in Playing Pool with Eggs, a show curated by Tobias Spichtig at Galerie Bernhard, Zurich, CH.

True Love Waits, featuring Maxfield Hegedus and Suhnee Venice at CUAC.


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