Dude, you’re missing Joel-Peter Witkin…
When I saw “Beautiful Beast,” at the New York Academy of Art, I hadn’t written anything about art for a while. I’ve been a bit out of circulation lately — my schedule has gotten to the point where I must often choose between painting and writing, and painting comes first of course. Seeing “Beautiful Beast” clarified and crystallized some thoughts which had been turning themselves over in my mind during my period of silence.
First, let me say that this show is very strong, and if you’re in New York, it’s worth checking out. Let’s say that you, like me, are not entirely clear on how a curator makes his or her voice heard – just what exactly they do. Among other things, “Beautiful Beast” is an excellent primer in the art. Many pieces in it stand out on their own, but the main force of the show is as a unified whole – and this owes to the hand of the curator, Peter Drake.
Drake has clearly compiled, over the years, a mental catalogue of work which disquiets. A specific strain of disquiet speaks to him. It is neither the biological horror of Cronenberg exactly, nor the metaphysical terror of de Chirico, but somewhere in between: metaphysical unease as a result of biological disturbance. This is a show of bodies that are somehow off.
Consider Barry X Ball’s “Purity,” a draped bust derived from Antonio Corradini’s “La Purità,” with the awful addendum that it is carved from white stone with hollow reddish intrusions, so that it appears to suffer from innumerable small cyclopean wounds.
Take Judy Fox’s “Mermaid,” a female nude imbued with bluish patches, surrounded by three numbered “Worm” sculptures, possessed variously of breasts, spines, asses, and vulvas in a sinuously run-amuck take on human physiology… [+]