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Slaves to the Visual

DISCUSSED
  1. Tessa Chasteen
  2. Harry Dodge
    and Stanya Kahn
  3. Francesca Gabbiani
  4. Charles Garabedian
  5. Matt Greene
  6. Tom Knechtel
  7. Nick Lowe
  8. Jennifer Pastor
  9. Mindy Shapero
  10. Thaddeus Strode

Slaves to the Visual

Benjamin Weissman
17 Snaps

When I first went to galleries as a nineteen-year-old snotnose with my high-school surf pal Christopher Williams (he, a painter of Richard Diebenkorn look-alikes at the time; me, doing my best not to completely imitate Richard Tuttle) we used to tear DeKooning labels off the walls of a swank West Hollywood gallery and reapply them to car windows or just bring them home and put them in our notebooks. The prank seemed justified. If Rauschenberg erased DeKooning’s drawing as a gesture of love and aggression the least we could do was remove a sticky title card whose edges were already peeling off the wall. The room was begging for vandals. Moments earlier, the gallery director had told Chris not to touch the art on the wall, to which he responded, but that was how my father told me to look at art. His father was not a bricklayer or a magician but he did blow himself up on the front lawn of the family’s home while experimenting with film effects for Hollywood, so young fatherless Chris became my surrogate-big-brother art coach.

Most of the galleries we visited back then reeked of bourgeois conservatism. They seemed antithetical to the seething impulses that were coursing through our feet, hands, noggins. Artworks spoke to us, they said, revolt, smash, peel labels off walls, and then, prove your own worth, go home and contribute to culture, don’t be a loser. After graduating from CalArts Chris and I started showing at various galleries and I found my way into writing fiction, which lead directly to a friendship with the novelist Dennis Cooper. Upon his encouragement, I began writing for Artforum. Minutes later Chris and I were both teaching at Otis College of Art and Art Center. As kooky fate would have it, Chris began showing at the very same gallery we had earlier vandalized. Showing art, collaborating with other artists, reviewing exhibitions, and publishing fiction in art catalogues put me in a precarious, nearly adversarial relationship with galleries.

As I got older I realized that galleries performed a remarkable service. They did the hellishly impossible: they sold art. And the gallerists, those well-coiffed characters who always seemed more like undertakers or the nervous leaders of a new but not very popular church, kept the walls painted white and the lights turned on. They tried intelligently to hype ideas and objects they were never very familiar with (it’s hard work), they sent out typo-free/grammatically correct press releases that didn’t embarrass themselves or humiliate the artists, and they did it to even scarier people than themselves: collectors and curators. These might have been some of the Unspeakable Practices, Unnatural Acts that Donald Barthelme referred to in his 1968 book of that title. Parallels abound in the book world—as George Bernard Shaw once wrote: “I object to publishers: the one service they have done me is to teach me to do without them. They combine commercial rascality with artistic touchiness and pettishness, without being either good businessmen or fine judges of literature. All that is necessary in the production of a book is an author and a bookseller, without the intermediate parasite.” This isn’t to say that every single art-biz creature contributes nothing and deserves to spend his remaining days in a noxious circle of hell. There are a few shiny and notable exceptions.

And something I never stopped believing: good art finds its way into the world.

Please find on the pages that follow documentation of work by ten Los Angeles artists I greatly admire, who range in age from twenty-three to eighty-one. Some of them have been working since World War II and others are having their first solo shows right about now. Others are midcareer and doing quite nicely and might be known here in L.A., and a bit elsewhere, but just barely. Still others have appeared in multiple Whitney Biennials and yet you’ve probably never heard of them. Some might be too cartoony, not gay enough, or so very very gay girlfriend but lacking in theoretical heft if you know what I mean (I mean, what the world needs now is to get our Carnophallo-hermeneutical faces out of our arse-icals or else it’ll be time to reify that steaming pile of Hegelianism)—not distant enough, too coy or illusory, romantic, too many outmoded references, quoting the wrong sources, or some other idiotic detail that caused them to slip between the floorboards for the moment. So pardon the full focus on L.A. artists, but these really were the first ten artists that came to mind when asked to introduce ten artists you might not know about. Part of the reason for my home-team affection is that L.A. museums, and the collectors who sit as board trustees and influence exhibitions, have had an odd relationship to L.A. artists: a shaky-spotty history of not supporting local talent, as if that would brand them provincial. So the kids must make a pilgrim’s progress elsewhere in the world and return home a hero. Being a booster for these characters who embrace that spirit of intellectual play and anarchistic freakiness that I was seeking long ago as a title-card stealer is an honor. Please welcome ten truly inspired artists who have the gift in spades.

***

Tessa Chasteen (born in a year that is none of our business) is fiercely obsessed with ships—mostly sailboats in full sail, minus the large crew, i.e., nobody onboard, which translates in her mind to mean the boat as soul, a floating solitary entity voyaging the great blue sea. For Ms. Chasteen, boats are the perfect thing to draw, since they are so beautifully shaped, the sails full of light, the rigging a network of complex lines. She’s also been known to draw the occasional ordinary something else—like birds, with their complex relationship to water, wind, and air. Also of great interest is the locomotive.

Ms. Chasteen, who grew up near the Atlantic, claims to have been a bad but enthusiastic sailor. She is also a writer of mischievous short fictions, stories about ants, living underground,Abraham Lincoln, and how to survive in the woods. In the drawing depicted here she unearthed an old landscape she made as a three-year-old with poster paint, and drew tiny intricate ships on it, turning the blobs of color into massive ocean swells. Ms. Chasteen continues to review old relics in her closet. Not only does she save every single scrap from her past but she continues to work on them for years on end, literally a decade with some pieces. She will work on a drawing front and back where ink has bled through and become one with the paper, turning it into a kind of ink skin, until the buildup of imperfect lines finally comes together and sings sweet peculiar songs. Ms. Chasteen likes working with crappy paper and cheapo markers, colored pencils, crayons, ballpoint pens, all the “low” materials that rigid art-academy ghouls insist students stop using and get with the oils-on-stretched-canvas program. Her lowbrow art supplies also chap the rear cheeks of the aforementioned well-dressed ones; gallerists beg for something archival to sell, and rare is the collector-eyeball which doesn’t twitch for the same reasons when confronted with drawings made of grease, fudge, or mercurochrome. Artworks, they believe, are supposed to outlive their masters.

—Blood type:AB positive; glove size: 7. Likes: Phosphorescence, foghorns, turbulence, union suits, popsicles (TC:“Do you know what they call them in Australia? Icy poles”), the Doppler effect. Turned on by: Smell of wet wool. Also likes: Swimming with clothes on. Collects cherry stems. Likes: Bulldozers, jackhammers, tractors, cranes, wrecking balls, scaffolding, train trestles. And jellyfish, eels, spaceship from Close Encounters.

***

Mindy Shapero, born in Louisville, Kentucky, 1974, is an artist who never saw an object that didn’t deserve having lots of hair drawn all over it. Her otherworldly sensibility contains an ethereal, cosmic logic that tromps around the subconscious like Bigfoot. She’s ultrabrilliant with the simplest materials. In an all-white sculpture called Fog, Ms. Shapero, the animist, has physicalized the barely visible without trying to accurately reproduce it in any way. Rather she has turned fog into an ambulatory creature, supported via little stilts instead of being suspended by fishing line (the more obvious method), which recalls Carl Sandburg’s “Fog comes / on little cat feet / … on silent haunches.” In Headless Giant she made an eleven-foot-tall dude of shredded white paper lying flat on his back minus his dome, with crumbled pieces of paper scattered about like rejected ideas that died when he died, the trash of his thoughts: a truly arresting image, the once-intimidating monster now all beauty and pathos. Collectively, Shapero’s titles are hallucinatory lines of poetry: Blue Waterfall Slipping Eyelid, A Non-Existent Day, Everything is always becoming; Birds and Ink Falling Out of the Wall (this last piece, made with ink, paper, and wire, looks literally like the title describes, birds and ink falling in the middle of the room). All of Ms. Shapero’s work creeps right out of dreams and into real space, which makes sense, since most of her work is black and white, and experts often claim that’s how we humans dream.This art is steeped in the vulnerability of being at dreams’ mercy.

—Odd habits:“Staring into space for long periods of time when someone is talking to me about something I should be listening to. I secretly smell the inside of a glass or cup before I drink out of it. I smell everything. I curl my eyelashes so that they fold back in between my eyelids with my eyes open and look around to feel my eyes in a different way.” Things she likes in the world: Fur, swirls of fur, slow-moving creatures, reptiles, dark when it’s light and light when it’s dark, blurs of something speeding so fast that all you see is the blur, looking at things upside-down and in reverse,“looking carefully with a magnifying glass at plants and then pretending that I am so small that it is an entire universe.”“I love getting to the point where I am so far from myself that I realize that I am not me, I’m just here in this body and everything I see had multiplied in distance and then trying to make it last.” Movie her artwork most resembles: Steve Martin’s The Jerk.

***

Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn are both recent graduates of Bard: Stanya in the creative-writing program, Harry, the film school.They have both been making performances for about twelve years, collaborating on short videos since 2001. Harry makes sculptures, drawings, and installations and Stanya writes short stories and essays.

Stanya, thirty-six, grew up in San Francisco (parents split up when she was very small). Her mother worked in the shipyards as an electrician and her father taught Chinese history.They had that poster in their house of Frank Zappa sitting on the toilet and also the one of Huey Newton in the rattan chair with the AK-47 on his lap. Her mom’s boyfriend was a very loving junkie who was always getting arrested and in fights. Because many of her parents’ friends were in armed underground revolutionary organizations, the FBI sometimes came to the door and stormed through the house. Stanya started smoking pot when she was about four but was always a voracious reader. When she was fourteen she felt that she was losing her mind, so she took a Greyhound to San Diego and hung out with a quaalude dealer who lived by the beach and lent her Jonathan Livingston Seagull. She moved to New York City when she was twenty-five.

Harry, thirty-eight, grew up in a suburb outside Chicago, in brand-new subdivisions at the end of the highway where the minimall met the cornfields. She got in a lot of fistfights at school and spent most of her time alone in the woods on the edge of town, making forts to read in. She too was a voracious reader. Once, Harry and her friend were trying to pick up sailors near the Navy base and she met a guy who said he was Eddie Money’s brother and could make her come with one finger.When she was sixteen, she climbed out the window with a cast on her arm and took her parents’ car down to the airport to the town’s one gay bar.A Gloria Gaynor song was playing and she felt sad and a little disappointed that she had found her people and they were wearing flannel and denim. She didn’t eat a fresh, uncanned vegetable until she moved to San Francisco when she was eighteen.

Their most recent piece is a seventeen-minute collab video called Let the Good Times Roll about a lady named Lois who goes to the wrong location for a desert concert. So does the cameraperson, played by an invisible Harry. Stanya’s Lois character addresses Harry, the camera, and tells us about her sadness related to the anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Lois is a character Stanya has channeled in previous pieces, but in this piece she goes much further.The Cliffs Notes on Stanya will tell you that she’s a cross between Richard Pryor and Lily Tomlin in their aggressive primes, just as sexually graphic but minus the residue of anger. Stanya’s Lois is soft-spoken, spaced out, oddly articulate, and innocent.When she describes fisting a guest at a wild party, she does so like a gentle Midwesterner sharing homemaking tips. She talks about working her fingers in and finally, when her knuckles enter, Lois makes a little bloop sound. It’s all information down there, inside, and as Lois says,“I was like Edward Lady Hands.” A fine cinematic moment.At one point Lois talks about the French guest repeating the phrase “that is so bizarre” but Lois is so high and the woman has such a thick accent that all she hears is “that soapy czar.”And then she explains that all she could think about was a “sudsy head of state.” I am butchering a verbal routine that stands up to the Marx Brothers.
—Good: “Formlessness, primordial ooze, sleeptalking, garbagemen of yore (can-carrying he-men in rubber aprons), homemade hatchets, tools that haven’t changed much since their invention, nasal douching, Jimi Hendrix, dogs, fish, elephants, boogieboarding, King Buzzo/Melvins, earthquake weather, drinking beer after an earthquake, butt jokes, poo jokes, the idea of kundalini and how it lives right next door to poo, ‘Everybody is a Star’ by Sly Stone, Lenny Bruce, the body without organs (BwO), walking, walking far with very little stuff, costumes made of foam, shoes that match the car, zombies, Steve Martin, Dodge Super Bee, big butts, the digestive system as smooth machine and symbol of working together, uncertainty, rowboats, doing it in the ’68 Impala. Bette Midler naked, Sasquatch, hair waxing, black metal, nautical knickknacks, feral things that go nuts, untouched natural bits, Richard Pryor, Wanda Jackson, octopus-walks-into-the-bar jokes, boogying down, George W. Bush’s corpse on fire, on a stick like a fucking corn dog.”

***

Francesca Gabbiani, born 1965, Montreal, Canada, moved to Switzerland in ’69, received MFA from UCLA in ’97, takes the simplest of elementary-school art supplies—construction paper and glue—and turns them into pictures of subtle strangeness. Via her labor-intensive practice of cutting up microscopic pieces of colored construction paper and gluing them onto other pieces of construction paper, Ms. Gabbiani has made meticulously rendered images of eccentric neighborhood businesses like Scorpion Tire and Club Tee Yee; a room of insects presented like true specimens, such as harlequin beetles, dragonflies, ladybugs, and butterflies; and architectural interiors that examine the sets of horror films (Argento, Bava, and Kubrick). She reexamines various places where memorable movie violence and gore took place, draining them of life and air.The neutralizing effect is queer and disturbing, as if the coast is clear, but it’s not. An eerie stillness remains. Recently Ms. Gabbiani produced a nine-foot collage made with the abovementioned materials (plus gouache and airbrush) of a huge forested landscape on fire.The yellow and orange flames blooming inside the brown trees and earth look like leering, grinning mouths. Something seriously wonderful and uncanny occurs when Ms. Gabbiani employs her trademark methods of cut and paste. The near-dead quality of colored paper, like hair dye and pancake makeup on the deceased, evokes something inherently melodramatic, and uncomfortably silent.

When she was a kid:“Occasionally it still happens, like when I talk about it. I would walk in the streets I would sometimes feel ‘THE ELASTIC,’ which was some kind of elastic that would keep me from walking. I’d have to take some sort of weird big step to avoid ‘THE ELASTIC’ and it would make me walk all weird. I wouldn’t want to introduce ‘THE ELASTIC’ to any of my friends.” She loves:“The accordion. It makes young people laugh, normal-aged people smile, and old people cry. Also, Rene Daniels. His paintings are some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life. It feels like they wash your eyes.” Compare:“I would like to compare my work to Jonathan Richman’s song ‘My Love Is a Flower.’”

***

Jennifer Pastor, thirty-eight, born Hartford, Connecticut, at the St. Thomas home for wayward girls, is a research-obsessed sculptor who locks into her subject matter with obsessively devoted commitment. She plays a lot with different kinds of representation—from cartoonlike seashells to moths that look hyperreal to enlarged snow-dome scenes. She gets the viewer to perform miraculous telescoping shifts from one form to another. Ms. Pastor, who had work in the most recent Venice Biennale and the Whitney Biennial, explores perversely familiar yet unexpected subjects through her exquisitely rendered work. She is one of the most cerebral sculpture stars to emerge in the mid-nineties from the ultimate art finishing school, UCLA, linking disconnected formal ideas about balance and circulation, and how various organizing “armatures,” or skeletal structures, direct systems of movement.Through her references to popular phenomena,Pastor also alludes to man’s conflicts with—and mastery over—nature, whether in the engineering, medical, or athletic realms, and the attendant notions of awe that such arresting displays seek to inspire. The Perfect Ride,a three-part installation, features a large, luminescent sculpture inspired by the water circulation system of the Hoover Dam; a magnified sculptural rendering of the human inner and outer ear based on the artist’s memory of a model in a medical museum; and a third component, a projected line-drawn animation depicting a cowboy performing what would be a perfectly radical rodeo ride on a bucking bull.

Hates:“I hate when the cologne of unwashed swimmers seeps into my lane like an oil spill.The presidential debates. Recently I had a nightmare that a large man in a black body stocking with a white skeleton painted on it grabbed me out of my truck by the neck and strangled me. I woke up disappointed that even the Grim Reaper was an impersonator.” Loves: “Recently I was pretty knocked out by a small show at the Met—drawings from the Weimar Republic. I like to run uphill at night. Some other exhibits that undid a lot, Diane Arbus, the Princehorn Collection, Robert Smithson. Q-tips are fine. Marcel Mauss’s The Gift,The Dr. Seuss Archive at UCSD, a videotaped interview with Truman Capote talking about writing In Cold Blood, Tally-Ho (dog), can’t wait to get a book I ordered on perceptual space in children written in 1948 by Jean Piaget and Barbel Inhelder.”

***

Matt Greene, thirty-two, born, Atlanta, Georgia. Headbangers of the world unite! Behold the eccentric feminist girl-truth deep within the inner aesthetic life. Matt Greene, a testament to billions of drawing hours paying bazaaro dividends, someone who has a great deal in common with Pieter Bruegel, the elder (who was the first artist to ever depict snow, according to Mr. Greene. See: The Adoration of the Kings in the Snow, 1567). Mr. Greene’s enormous drawing of 666 guitar-wielding girls is reminiscent of Bruegel’s landscape crowd scenes where hundreds of tiny figures skate on lakes or party down in their codpieces.

Mr. Greene’s girls appear in various states of undress, always outdoors, a place where nudists often reside, beside spooky leafless trees, giant mushrooms, and other fleshy fungi. When I asked him what he loved, Mr. Greene responded thusly: “Poisonous plants, Frank Frazetta, Leg Show, hairy hippie girls, pubic hair, old growth forests (also bushy), the cover of Black Sabbath, Vol. 1, LiLiPUT, bondage/fem-dom themes in Wonder Woman, witches tripping on datura rubbed into vagina with broomstick, Fourier’s utopian phalanx, decapitation, Halloween, log cabins, fungus, girls using tools, first KISS album and Alice Cooper, trolls under bridges, elegant gothic Lolita (Japanese fashion style resembling Alice in Wonderland), color palette in dawn of the dead same as Toulouse-Lautrec (a midget). Pushead (illustrator). Pot, plants, agriculture, dogs (cats are too psychological), the scene in The Song Remains the Same where Jimmy Page turns into a rainbow and Robert Plant eats an amanita muscaria mushroom. Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park (made for TV), egalitarian societies, the New York Dolls. Women should stay in their underwear as long as possible while being painted. Most men in my work get decapitated (wizards excluded). Skull bongs, swords, phantasm, Stonehenge, sludge metal, Oedipal rock.”

—From fourth to eighth grade Mr. Greene read the entire 1980 encyclopedia, A–Z. Subscribes to Mushroom (the journal). Loves psychedelic lesbian vampire movies; favorite title: Deviant Droolers.

Hates: “Shaved/silicone/fake fuck porno anatomy lessons, corporate rock still sucks, snakes, eggs, malls, lapdancing, corny eighties paintings… Let me reiterate: male or female pubic hair shaving of any kind. I’m all for a full and gentle transition from hairy areas to smooth ones… appreciate the subtleties of the entire region. Used to dream of misplaced vaginas, i.e., on the back of leg or arm or something.” Collects: Miniature books. “I have hundreds of books less than 3″ tall.” Miscellany:“I’d like to see more people naked from day to day, more plants in art galleries. Hang art next to fucked-up carnivorous plants.”

***

Charles Garabedian, eighty, Detroit, Michigan. From the early days of Mr. Garabedian’s career until the present, his work has always slipped under the hipster radar. When pop art, minimalism, and cool, fetish finish paintings were all the rage, Mr. Garabedian painted emotional abstractions, recognizable objects, faces, figures, human characters. In the late seventies, when New Image painting briefly reared its big wobbly head, curators went berserk when they sawwhat G. was quietly stirring up, which promptly led to inclusions in two Whitney Biennials.When Mr. Garabedian—who was a WWII staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and experienced a great deal of combat, flying more than thirty missions over Europe—uses the color red in his paintings, good things happen. Porno pink on fleshy hands and feet, blood red on torso stumps, tongues, fire, goop leaking out of cracks—he depicts violence and gore with remarkable tenderness, articulating the subtleties of form in red petals, hair, fabric, statuary, and dolls. In the sixties, his post–air force subjects were tough and streetwise—urban mayhem and chaos, existence out of control—sexual, violent, moral, comical, and comic strip–like. That led him straight to the lumbering, happy-go-lucky Greeks and Romans, specialists in war and melodramatic genitalia, broken figures as landscape, shocked and torn, rendered beside crumbled architectural forms with contemplative, philosophic distance.

—Mr. G.: “My wife loves opera. I love my wife. I’m stuck.What Paul Klee can do to a scrap of paper. Primal is my aim: naïf, the terrible result. I started with Masaccio and worked my way up, went back to Giotto and worked my way down. Much more interesting. I think my strength as an artist is impatience and not understanding things. I enjoy manifestos. Now that I am almost eighty-one my favorite song is ‘September Song’ sung by Walter Houston. I dislike eating in dark restaurants.A photograph of a smiling Louise Brooks from the movie Lulu raises havoc with sexual memories. I have three young grandchildren, five, three, and two, who scare the daylights out of me. In the short term I believe mankind is indestructible, sad to say. My closest moment came over Halle, Germany, in 1944. That plus a few encounters with food poisoning. I love to smoke and if Emily Dickinson were alive I would consider stalking her.”

***

Tom Knechtel, born 1952, Palo Alto, California, moderately tattooed, has: a huge warbley laugh that seems like a mixture of Vishnu, Buddha, and Ethel Merman, a bawdy, cackling, sonic boom, a chesty, animal utterance about all things lusty, thick, and bulgy, a testament to standing upright, or cavorting on all fours. He makes sexy graphic pictures pushed to the extreme—goofy, honest, horny, theatrical drawings and paintings—whispering their secrets like a lovestruck moose, and his interest in things that fill with blood, thicken, and rise, is constant. Mr. Knechtel’s pastel drawings of animals, wrestlers, and musclemen in hoopskirts remind me of posters in a teenage girl’s room, except that Mr. Knechtel’s pictures look as if they were rendered by Rembrandt. He captures that state of gargantuan innocence,of worshipfulness,of being in love with muscle and beauty and physique, of pining for a big dreamy lug, and how that longing can swirl into so many other things once inside the brain. Fragments of reality, a horn that mutates into a leafy vine,a spot of tea that triggers a monkey-ass explosion, a headless goose that spurts ribbons of blood detailed like cheerful geysers, a bird sampling the entrails of a frog,gore as love,as miraculous-morbid beauty; Eden, epiphany, the divine city of viscera. It’s the Nature Porn Cartoon channel (with lots of wrestling), where fruit bats squeal the sound of hallelujah.
—The tattoos on his body: A salamander around left ankle, the horse from the Lascaux caves on right hip, a flying rhinoceros beetle on left shoulder, and a circle of three moths on his chest. Originally it was going to be a spiral of animals going around his body, but marrying a rabbi put an end to that. Things Mr. K. loves: Indian painting from Basohli, crows, water buffaloes, the memoirs of St. Simon, Fats Waller, wrestlers, drag queens, dinosaurs, James Merrill, puppet theaters, the films of Karel Zeman, kabuki, Jean Marais in Beauty and the Beast, watching his hand smoke, Jackie Gleason on The Honeymooners when his eyes would bug out.Things he hates: Ernest Hemingway,Wagner, automobiles, any book described as “a good read.”Things he collects: Indian paintings and drawings, Guatemalan masks, art by his contemporaries, Venetian glass animals, Pogo and Krazy Kat comics, various implements for the serving of paan, toy theater sheets, zoological prints, ugly animals which his sister collects for him at swap meets in North Dakota—including a hillbilly dinosaur, a flocked German shepherd with rhinestone eyes, and a handknit duck with a bar of soap shoved up its ass.

***

Nick Lowe, twenty-four: You’d think that the boy was very stoned to make the kinds of pictures he’s made, but he wasn’t, isn’t, and really he’s borderline straight-edge.Mr.Lowe’s drawings are obsessively detailed with strange entities lurking inside the folds of clothing, tree trunks, foliage. His drawing are violent, comic, folktale-like, cheerful but eerie.Take, for example, his giant mountain with living and dead climber carcasses strewn about and ropes and bighorn sheep and goats bearing witness. His oddly rendered mountains resemble the scales of a dragon or the cloudy insides of a clam. In The Piper, I love the disturbing placement of the flute nestled in that terrible area above the chin, below the lower lip. Mr. Lowe makes all his work in a tiny airless apartment that recalls Ween’s first album, made while self-quarantined with some disease. Mr. Lowe is also a skilled fiction writer, whose stories blast around to the oddest crazy-boy caves imaginable.Additionally, he is a rapper who pairs up with his pal, artist Ry Rocklin, to produce some of the sweetest lunatic rhymes a sexually crazed white boy can muster. Nick: “I don’t draw anymore because my arm started to hurt, too labor intensive. Now just painting. Embracing color and texture, so exciting.”

Low-key Lowe: Exercises on rowing machine while watching the complete series of Harry and the Hendersons on DVD. Doesn’t own a car. Rides bus.Also pedals bike. Can only cook noodles (prefers the term pasta).“That’s where I’m heading with my life,” Nick said, after admitting that his favorite dessert is chocolate ice cream, “super bland.” Favorite artist: Hieronymus Bosch. “I went to high school with Hieronymus. Hierony was cool.”

***

Thaddeus Strode, forty, born in Santa Monica, California, has a huge flourishing career in Europe, but almost zero play in L.A. and N.Y. regardless of countless exhibitions he’s had in both cities. Mr.Strode has made sculptures of severed heads, dioramas with little people doing strange things, and drawings and collages heavily influenced by Buddhism, surf culture, punk and metal bands, being shipwrecked on a desert island, and ghosts. Kurt Cobain is a reoccurring character. His is an absurdist sensibility, populated by speechless handicapped monsters, deeply influenced by seventies comics, old-school printing techniques, gothic folktales, Norwegian creatures like Nakken, who hung out in lakes and waited for unsuspecting victims to grab and eat, murky voyages, traveling from one world into another, the other side of mirrors, messages in bottles cast out to sea, blind psychic surfers, Italian Giallo horror films (Mario Bava, the illogic of Dario Argento who thought of his films as paintings via over-the-top Technicolor). Painting with characters such as Lee Harvey Oswald, gorillas on desert islands praying like Zen monks, big sad lugs, genies, sumo wrestlers, kitty cats, samurai assassins, Bruce Lee,Vikings with giant swords,not to mention balloons and bubbles, oceans, bathtubs, and foam.

Current surfboard: 9′ 6″ Lance Carson Noserider. Biggest wave ever tried to surf:Ten-footer at Todos Santos (ate shit, almost drowned). Has two wooden stakes by his bed just in case vampires attack. Favorite food: Blood sausages, big fan of grease. “I ate brains, also puppy poo, but that was by accident.” After viewing one of his video installations a collector lady once remarked to Mr. Strode, not knowing he was the artist, that she wanted to “rustle up a machete and chop off the arms of the guy who made that piece.” ✯

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