Artist: Stephen G. Rhodes
Venue: Bortolozzi, Berlin
Exhibition Title: SPÄTKAUFF
Date: November 30 – December 28, 2019
Full gallery of images, press release, and link available after the jump.
Images courtesy of the artist and Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin. Photos by Roman März.
The properties of painting and drinking are easily confused. Poetry has long held court as the medium to rectify the influence of drinking over the incontinence of language, but painting is drinking’s proxy. We liquidate oil, process it with color and dilute it in tumblers of spirits to crudely slop and consume ad nauseam, sublimating poison at the service of visual pleasure and energy. Alcohol is a resource distilled from the color spectrum of fruit whose poison we problematize when manifested to excess. One poison objectifies the fruits of a labor, while the other signifies the antithesis of productivity by wit of over exposure to fermented fruits and vegetables.
Whether painting in abstinence of drinking, or drinking in surrogation of painting, it is a toxic process sacrificing unnatural resources for the cause of unpredictable pleasures or damaged deliriums. Velazquez painted with an extra long brush either to get some perspective or get some distance from the fumes. There are tales of painters who would have rather licked their brushes than waste it on the spirits that clean them. Rembrandt warned, “Don’t put your nose into my pictures, the smell of paint will poison you!”. We’ve known since antiquity that any representation is poison. Inevitably, some will read these paintings as borne from a confessional place of experienced pain, they are paintings after all. Still, the iconography of drinking populates the history of painting and is a universal symbol of consumption itself. Old wine in new bottles, pick your vice.
The scale is uniform, full or half full. The scale projects a correlation to our drowning bodies, sacks of liquid framed in bones that they are. They unfold in cartoon cell blocks that might derive from scenes of Neapolitan religious pictures as easily from scenes remembered from Berlin kneipes. The “pink elephants” and “purple passages” hallucinated during blackouts that Jack London writes about in John Barleycorn (1913) provide the color scheme.
“When good fortune comes, they drink. When they have no fortune, they drink to the hope of good fortune. If fortune be ill, they drink to forget it. If they meet a friend, they drink. If they quarrel with a friend and lose him, they drink. If their love-making be crowned with success, they are so happy they needs must drink. If they be jilted, they drink for the contrary reason. And if they haven’t anything to do at all, why, they take a drink, secure in the knowledge that when they have taken a sufficient number of drinks the maggots will start crawling in their brains and they will have their hands full with things to do. When they are sober they want to drink and when they have drunk they want to drink more.” (J.L. Jbc 1913)
And so do we Paint, mixing up wet things and leaving them out to dry, hungover floors and walls.
SGR 2019 Berlin