I am a beautiful monster
who shares his secrets with the wind.
What I love most in others
–Francis Picabia, “Baccarat,” 1940
Gladstone Gallery is pleased to present Beautiful Monsters, a group exhibition curated by Douglas Fogle. The exhibition explores the enduring artistic impulse to render the human figure as a way of holding up a mirror to the self. The works in Beautiful Monsters illustrate a variety of artists’ approaches to this impulse over the last century. From intricate renderings to simple gestures, they utilize a range of techniques in an effort to represent both the human form and the self. Shifting from playful to melancholic, poetic to humorous, the exhibition presents a complex version of the self that is a “beautiful monster.”
Frequently blurring the boundaries between figuration and abstraction, a number of the works on view demonstrate the challenge of representing the human form and the elusive self. From a layered oil portrait in which a figure seems hidden within an abstracted background, to a simple pencil drawing of a neoclassical male nude holding his own decapitated head, Francis Picabia’s varied representations of the human form show a deep interest in the complex psychology that lies beneath the surface. With similarly complex psychological undertones, Andro Wekua’s collages and paintings position the human figure in a variety of self-referential, dreamlike landscapes.
Other works in the exhibition capture human forms that are simultaneously emerging from and trapped within the mediums through which they are represented. Michael Dean’s concrete, geometric sculptures are made to scale with the artist’s body and are no larger than he himself can carry. They function, ultimately, as surrogates for his own figure. Marisa Merz’s evocative clay heads attempt to muscle their unique visions of the human form into our own physical space, and David Hammons’s nearly translucent body prints seem to float on paper, ready at any moment to jump off of it or recede back into it. Other featured artists include Hans Bellmer, Jack Goldstein, João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, Jean-Luc Moulène, and Jack Smith. Together they show the “beautiful monster” that is inherent in the human form.