Its quite possible that Scott Speh, owner and director of Western Exhibitions in the West Loop, is curating his 2009 exhibitions in order to destroy you. When examining the last few shows at the gallery, we find some aggressive works: first an eyeball assault show from Geoffrey Todd Smith show, followed by a Dutes Miller show aimed at giving you dick nightmares, and now comes Paul Nudd‘s VOMITROMITON with sights set on spoiling your dinner.
First the obvious: there are a lot of pieces in VOMITROMITON and not much difference between them. The main body of work, a collection of no less than twenty two paintings in the titular series, can as well be thought of as different instances of the same set, with the same colors and materials applied in very similar ways in each. Their strength and variation comes out in their compositions, which while also more alike than not, exist in blobs and bacterial nests that tell the same kind of surface history as the organic development of mold or boils.
While certainly gross looking up close, with pink micro turds and shower-drain nets of questionable hair alongside fake vomit and shit-brown puddles of paint, the pieces are quite traditionally attractive from any distance more than eleven inches. The pinks and greens and browns work, and the compositions are active and playful. Without the grime and slime connection, each painting would be a rather conventional exercise in limited form, abstract composition. I don’t mean that the slime and grime can or should be looked over; part of the fun of these paintings is that each form, while being used abstractly, has a reference as specific as puke or as general as “questionable goo I’d rather not touch.”
In addition to the paintings series are another eight works on paper, each following the a similar material theme but on a smaller stage. Like much of Nudd’s work, the collages include textual riffs on descriptive phrases, such as one of the lists on Dog Lungs reads: Hog Lungs, Lung Spots, Pink Lung Pox, Liquid Lung Pus. This rambling, punning approach seems perfectly in line with the creation of the works themselves, each an experiment, topping the last like a fifth-grade lunchroom contest to see who can gross out the best.
I have a feeling that Nudd, with an imagination full of black milk and sinus cakes could plumb his mind for a thousand such drawings and paintings. While each are badass in their own right, the sheer quantity makes individual examination difficult. It’d be extremely difficult to pick a favorite among the bunch. The single standout came in Burning Head Bush, the singular figurative work in the bunch. Its demand for attention came not only because it is a fucked up, awesome painting, but from of its deviation from the group.
There were a few other tangential pieces in this area, proving the prodigious output of the artist and turning the office into a kind of high quality Paul Nudd gift shop. Also featured was the video DirtBurths, an honestly revolting piece that really has to be seen to be appreciated. His Slug Text Drawings, arranged like wallpaper behind the Western Exhibitions office, are fun for their use of type and language and I want one.
I have no problem with gross out art, and having followed Nudd’s work from the top bleachers for a few years, have accepted his use of a disgusting aesthetic because I believe he’s trying to do more than turning my stomach. I don’t see him using the crust subversively, neither questioning the human capacity for revulsion or trying to root out why we’re disgusted by a particular form or texture, in fact the art depends in part on our unquestioned ability to be find pretty random forms gross. It has to be gross. There would be no fun, no beauty in it otherwise.
Still, when faced with a room which features only that specific aesthetic – and so much of it – the experience is reduced. I imagine Nudd may be the perfect artist to include in a group exhibition or museum collection, a context where his work would be all the grosser and challenging, fuming gas and splashing.
I give it a:
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