Monday, June 11, 2012

Marco Badot: Getting in touch with his inner monkey

It's important not to overthink "The Geshe Gorilla Drawings," the new and, sadly, short exhibit by Marco Badot, because you lose the whimsy, the playfulness, the nostalgia of the work, which looks and feels like comic book art, and, perhaps, could, or should, be. It's also important not to take the artist  at his word when he's explaining the genesis of the series, suggesting, essentially, the work is little more than monkeyshines, fleeting, inconsequential, that it's just what comes out these days  and, instead of relegating it to some dark corner somewhere and being somewhat embarrassed by it, he simply decided to embrace his inner monkey and show the work. While there may be some truth in that self-observation — the Belgian-born Badot trained at Ecole nationale supérieure des arts visuels de La Cambre, one of Belgium’s leading art schools, after all — there’s nothing revolutional or earth-shattering going on in the exhibit, just a gorilla trying to get by in a complicated inner and outer world, this is more than just empty calories. It's playful, it's fun, it’s nostalgic, recalling youth and comic books, but, at the same time deals with the big three: sex, death and what the artist  calls “our apeness,” our basic animal nature, which we all like to believe we have transcended, but, as we are reminded every day, have not and cannot. 

Think of it as a serial portrait of the ape as a young artist, or the other way around. Several of the pieces find him doing what gorillas are best known for, besides vigorously thumping their chests: That would be grabbing up a toothsome, quite sexualized, lass and preparing to show her the city ... from, say, the top of the Empire State Building, accessed from outside, and swatting airplanes  buzzing around their heads like flies — the subtext of this, of course, is the ravishing that follows. We also see him in his private world, living a seemingly ordinary life, a life of quiet desperation, lounging on the couch, watching daytime talk, no doubt, or in the shower, perhaps with the cold tap up all the way, trying to wash the images of ravishing right out of his hair. He’s also a musician. We see him, sweat pouring off his face, playing an acoustic, a bitchen SG and, one false note, a red Telecaster — something not found in nature. And death, the biggest of the big three? Just one image — striking, startling, strategically placed in the front of the gallery, behind the viewer when he enters, making it the last image he will see, showing the end, at his own hand, monkey kari, pool of blood gathering, make of that what you will. A fun show, despite that all-too-final note. Too bad the show was up only one week.

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