in review: Figure/heads at ICOSA
Works by David Bae and Erin Cunningham. Image courtesy of ICOSA.
Figure/heads brings together two artists with very little in common. David Bae creates large, whimsical portraits in oil, and Erin Cunningham traces the contours of the body in sculpture. Although the juxtaposition initially feels arbitrary, putting their work together in one space draws attention to the many contrasts in color, medium, and tone, allowing each artist to emphasize their individual strengths.
David Bae’s paintings feel like a ménage a trois between Giorgio de Chirico and YOUNGSONS collaborators Michael Ricioppo and Drew Liverman. They feature the playful figurative work of the latter artists filtered through a scuola metafisica sensibility, to mixed results. On the one hand, the geometric overlays and Cubist disfigurement feel worn (and occasionally conjure the horror of ’70s art-rock album covers). However, the coloration and adventurous movement recall the best of artists like Dan Sutherland and the aforementioned YOUNGSONS. In a world where the cool and uncool are continuously trading places, one can argue that the work of the Fort Worth Circle is due for a revival, and if you want to make that argument, David Bae may be your man.
David Bae, No Brainer (2016)
Erin Cunningham’s sculptures are de facto opposites of Bae’s paintings. Stark and realistic, they draw attention to the physical in a visceral way. With their emphasis on folds and flaps of skin, they feel like subjects from Lucian Freud paintings cast in three dimensions. By choosing to present only a slice of the body with each piece, she draws attention to its beauty in an intimate fashion, fostering an appreciation for the way the arm bisects at the elbow, or how the ankle meets the foot. A sophomoric vibe occasionally permeates the exhibit, and some pieces bear the hallmark of the ubiquitous “butt or elbow” quizzes that have bounced around the Internet since Web 1.0, but, at their best, Cunningham’s sculptures convey surprising warmth. They embrace the sensuality of the skin while simultaneously disorienting viewers, creating an ambiguous feeling of eroticism that contrasts nicely with Bae’s headier tone. Alternating between the two casts the mind-body duality into sharp relief; with Figure/heads, you get the best—and worst—of both worlds.