Friday, October 10, 2014

Viscera against Nature: Ian Hughes' Twisted Figures at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel

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A Dada-inspired artist, Johannes Baader, once ran into a church in Germany and yelled: “Jesus is a sausage!”  I am still trying to absorb this koan-like adage, but perhaps the work of Ian Hughes sheds light on what exactly a ‘Jesus sausage’ might look like.  Indeed, we may all be Jesus sausages (or have the capacity to attain to Jesus sausageness) without even knowing it.

Hughes’ central images are like disembodied viscera which seem to continue living apart from the entire bodily system. It’s as if they have, like separatist protesters, decided that they are the core or essential aspect of the body and that other systems are just not worth supporting.  These viscera must have their independence. These are often tubes that want to ascend, but these are tubes that bend back on themselves. Often we see them bending back and then ascending before falling into line again with gravity. Or have these become eternal tubes which have learned how to beat the Second Law of Thermodynamics?

These tube-like structures seem to reveal a type of organic collapse, like a Tower of Babel of intestines that has come tumbling down, but which still functions somehow and which does not seem to be in any real pain. These are viscera aspiring, viscera rising and failing, guts and other organs meeting the dawn. 

When I first saw the pieces on opening night I immediately felt there was a definite Francis Bacon influence here, but I think that Hughes is a little more whimsical and humorous than Bacon.  He uses more subdued colors and creates greater ambiguity.  I also thought of the little baby-creature from David Lean’ s Eraser Head while looking at these images.  They are desire embodied as biological conduits, showing that bodily desire is never consummated fully, which is in contrast to our belief that spiritual desire can be consummated fully and finally, leading to eternal bliss. 

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