Once upon a time Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm ardently pursued the preservation, through publication, of German folktales. These stories were originally meant for adults during the 1800s, an acceptable demographic for capriciousness to meet strange violence, but young readers became enthralled and the tales became softer over time. Folklore has been at the threshold of childlike imagination since their inception and for good cause; their resonance transcends the boundaries of time and demographics. Although Grim Tales, at Cassina Projects in Manhattan, may seem a mere riff off of the Grimm Brother’s legacy, the group show is more like a mirror against contemporary thought and aesthetics. The common thread throughout the show is the artists’ collective nod to the original Grimm assemblage through their employment of disturbance, the psychological and uncanny, and the body.
Patrizio Di Massimo, an Italian artist and self-taught painter despite formal education in Milan then London, is something of a historiographer and something of a sociological explorer. His work with oil and focus on portraiture in this show is twofold: it is first, reminiscent of Pompeo Batoni and fellow Rococo-inspired precursors to Neoclassicism and second, there seem to be degrees of influence from lowbrow pop-surrealism. The animated quality portrays eroticism in a fashion that first downplays graphic sexual nuance and highlights the human body in a way that invites the viewer in to see the self-portraiture of the artist and female-centered subjectivity. The female as a centerpiece is evident throughout Massimo’s work: the depiction of femdom and submissive in one case, full circus-voyeuristic swing and another case barking orders at her submissive shining her shoes, as well as a female subject receiving oral sex from a man whose visage isn’t present. Di Massimo remains true to the craft; a burnt sienna wash visible at the edges of his piece depicting a female from behind featuring an obscured moon, powerful wind-blown hair, and a keep quiet request on her lips.
Malte Bruns’ work invites the viewer to delve into the realm of transhumanism, presenting the human body as the site of technology in opposition to nature. The grotesque disembodiment resembles the work of prominent cultural figures (fictional or otherwise), such as serial killer Ed Gein and his fascination with wearing human skin or Dr. Frankenstein and his obsession with creating life via reassembly of human corpses. Bruns, maintaining direct opposition to the perfection of modern prosthetics while embracing the nature of assemblage, had this to say about his process and influence, “My process kind of reassembles that of the Hollywood movie industry, where silicone is used to create life-like monsters or fake limbs, wounds, masks, etc. The inspiration most of the time comes from thinking about a certain abstraction of the body on the way that it misbehaves or fails or moments where it becomes machine-like. Also, situations that seem to be funny but are actually very cruel are of interest to me, like the holy moly piece. In the end, it all comes down to the mouse with the ear on its back, which got famous in the mid-2000s. Basic functions of the body, which are either dismantled, destroyed, reconfigured or in a completely abstract situation.”
Jamie Fitzpatrick’s process is wildly apparent, distorting the status quo of sculpture through abstraction and fiction. The work seems absolutely melting, in the same way as it would if one were to light up the whole of Madame Tussaud’s. Although expressionist, themes of eroticism are present via phallic objects strewn throughout. Fitzpatrick commented on his process, saying: “In regard to process, I build forms fairly organically out of polystyrene and then sculpt molded wax casts and directly incorporated wax onto the surface of these forms. The wax is
“In regard to process, I build forms fairly organically out of polystyrene and then sculpt molded wax casts and directly incorporated wax onto the surface of these forms. The wax is coloured with pigments to give it the strong colours.” The work, in some ways, stands as a call into question the historic monuments the world has erected. Employing miasma of color and grotesque distortion, the piece serves in part as a mockery of the institution and their figures.
Video of the opening night for the show.
Grim Tales at Cassina Projects on view from Sep 7 – Oct 21, 2017
Curated By ARTUNER
EXHIBITING ARTISTS: Malte Bruns, Patrizio Di Massimo, Jamie Fitzpatrick