May 20th 2011

Rachel Niffenegger and Paul Nudd and Band of Bikers

@ Western Exhibitions

119 N Peoria St, 2A, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Friday, May 20th, from 5PM - 8PM

On view through Saturday, July 2nd

Rachel Niffenegger and Paul Nudd traffic in arresting and grotesque imagery, depicting the body in ridiculous levels of distress. Though their goals differ—Niffenegger’s heads and body parts suffer damages from external sources; Nudd’s figures seem diseased, comically so, from within—both artists wrestle an indelible, even beautiful power from repulsive and revolting sources and materials.

Rachel Niffenegger’s sculptures and paintings transcribe the figure in transitional states: between being and ghost image; statuesque and the formless; two-dimensional and three-dimensional spaces. Her effigies are created, manipulated and destroyed through ritual; torsos are cracked, propped up and covered, faces are absorbed and imbedded in cloth, and paint is picked off and reapplied to appendages. These objects are material gestures of the psyche fulfilling the necessity to make solid objects as a permeable and porous body. Materials travel between objects and are generated through discarded works as she employs spray-painted polystyrene, sawdust, concrete, ash, hair, plaster, and paint skins.

Paul Nudd’s new large vertical drawings depict cartoonishly terrifying mutants, alien/human mash-ups besotted with tumors, warts, lesions, growths, male and female genitalia and mis-placed pubic hair. The slightly-larger than human full-body portraits feel like amalgamated bastard spawn of Nudd’s gross-out heroes and influences: Paul McCarthy, Öyvind Fahlström, Peter Saul, Ivan Albright and of course, Jim Nutt, along with popular sources, movies like “The Fly”, “Dead Alive”, “The Toxic Avenger” and The Thing from the Fantastic Four. Nudd’s hermaphroditic figures (“Most of the action goes on between the legs”, per the artist) map bizarre physical characteristics with green being a prevalent color, representing life, growth, bacteria, mold, fungus and monsters, Frankenstein and the Hulk. These radioactive icons find redemption in disease, being self-aware bodies in a paranoid age, reveling in genetic mutations, bad pharmaceuticals and environmental degradation.

Band of Bikers in Gallery 2. Organized by Scott Zieher.

In the basement of an apartment building in Manhattan, Scott Zieher, poet and co-owner of ZieherSmith Gallery, discovered a pile of photographs among the discarded effects of a recently deceased tenant. Exhibited for the first time at ZieherSmith in March 2010 and presented in a new publication of the same name from powerHouse Books, these photographs from circa 1972 offer an intimate portrait of a group of gay bikers in the city and the woods, and a touching snapshot of a historical subculture at its carefree zenith.

The photographs bring into focus a brief, specific period of relative innocence, when middle-of-the-road Americans more often than not failed to perceive the homoerotic undertones of their most heterosexual of institutions. With conceptual light cast by issues ranging from anonymity in homosexuality and underground motorcycle chic to vernacular photography’s pop-culture ramifications, a warm and generous spirit of camaraderie pervades this subterranean survey. Like a real-world set for Scorpio Rising casually captured by an unpretentious extra, this found cache of old-school, leather party snapshots attains archeological significance.

A selection of the original individual photographs, as well as the book, will be available throughout the exhibition. The powerHouse publication also includes an essay by Scott Zieher.

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