Thursday, August 2, 2007

Give Up vs. YAR: We all get along

My, what a wide gulf exists between these artists; paper, flour and water are all that hold this exhibit together. The twin poles of late 20th century culture contrast strongly here, linking the diverse visions of these two. With symbolic imagery pushed to the limit of the spectrum, Give Up mangles screenprint images into unerring statements. He listens to metal. In rainbow figures and earthy tones YAR channels self-deprecating utopian ideals through several historical deaths and failures of the philosophical elite. He listens to folk music. Their paintings are mixed on the gallery walls, claustrophobic in the small front room and hallway of Domy Books. In two murals buttressing the main gallery the artists attempt to hold the overall composition together with an abstracted forest by Give Up on the right and an awkwardly positioned man, a neon green-skinned YAR character, sitting on a high shelf to the left. The self-containment of the show is effective, but the cluttered salon-style curation and unavoidable accoutrements of exhibiting in a book store are detrimental to the show’s cohesion.

Though several mutations, always coming back to the familiar razor blade image, Give Up has established a reputation on the street through volume and content. His dark imagery is permeated by repeated calls for viewers’ suicides and contradictory juxtapositions of flesh and metal. In each portrait on display at Domy the artist has removed the figure’s eyes; either by cropping into faces, employing paint splatters or darkening faces into death’s head masks, more akin to the hollow sockets of skulls. In Virtue a female figure is cropped between her nose and cleavage, the exposed shoulders and breast leading the eye up to a sensuous open mouth. In other images the simplicity of the silkscreen medium enhances simple referential images- hammers, razors, goat heads, teeth, churches and chain saws. Quite the abstraction, LaVey Christ is the most overt sacrilege in the show- the figure peeking out from the shadows is ambiguous, it may be sympathetic or a damning portrait of the most famous Satanist of our century. Throughout the show images are large, simple diatribes- but in Photo Booth the artist examines himself and a close friend; destroying all individual references through obstruction and paranoia. The most important development Give Up has had on the city of Houston is not in his images or controversy, but in the way he has bred a following that buys art.

He had on his Mask because he knew all Ubermensches needed Profundity Hidden, 2007

In each YAR work here at Domy Books, the inhabitants of these watercolor drawings strike a passive tone. In gangs, groups and portraits the essential humanity of his figures is that of forlorn disappointment. Bulbous heads and diminutive features emphasize sight, with withered limbs they can do little more than stare at each other in a purgatorial stupor. Within the artist’s intentions are lilting references to pessimistic seers of philosophy; in He had on his Mask because he knew all Ubermensches needed Profundity Hidden a single figure cocks his hip and stands awkwardly in his Batman tee shirt and tiny Nike sneakers. He sprays paint up into the air, where it grows from a single point into an undulating rainbow of color extending off the page. His feeble attempt at disguise is a small black band around his eyes, hardly concealing his identity, especially when he stands exposed in the center of a white expanse. Other figures wear their depressing hearts on their tees; Raskolnikov, the protagonist of Crime and Punishment, or Iranian prophet and poet Zoroaster. Several images relate the life and death of Socrates, which may have its most potent motivation in the philosopher’s sense of irony; feigning ignorance to expose the weakness of another’s position. Perhaps the most revealing of the work here is Backwards Rimbaud Death Mask, more of a schematic than a figure, where all the lines contouring the face lead to two blank eyes; the artist’s intention to squeeze a bit of reality from the tip of a paintbrush is laid bare in his ode to the deranged transcendentalist who influenced so much of the last century.

catch up with Give Up on his blog... here.

and here's YAR on Flickr...

the exhibit stays up at Domy Books through August 17th.

article also available in Artshouston format, pick one up today!


Anonymous said...

Oh Brother......