The artistic practice of Brendan Lynch developed from a dialogue (possibly even conflict) between the aesthetics defined by Culture (with a capital C), and the aesthetics of a more widespread common culture. Originally from Los Angeles, Lynch grew up engaging with the visuals of everyday artworks: graffiti, cartoons, comic strips and mass produced low-value commodity products. When in 2006 he moved to New York and began entering the art world (literally going to galleries), what appealed to him was put in stark contrast with what the elite pinnacle of the gallery circuit judged as valuable.
Walking into his Anonymous Gallery solo exhibition, Different Dances, it is immediately evident how he has responded to this clash between the hierarchically described high and low points of creativity. Mashed together, a hundred different source materials co-exist, and collectively act to rewrite the grand narratives of art history along more horizontal, egalitarian, lines.
Around the gallery’s walls Lynch has worked with Mexican muralist, Norberto Hernández López, to devise his own group show, a selection of artworks scaled up to engulf the space in what he prizes, his fantasy show.
Directly to the right is Pixar’s WALL-E handing a rose to EVA, a computer generated visual by the deviant art user UVER. On the furthest wall, a still from Alex Da Corte’s Chelsea Hotel No.2 (2010), a video performance set to the Leonard Cohen song of the same name.
On a black background there is a coiling serpent by the fantasy and science fiction artist Frazetta, the type of artist scorned by the establishment, yet recognised by his industry as a genius. In one corner, adapted from a softly shot photograph Lynch’s friend Natalia Mantini took especially for this show, a woman is touching herself. There are also images by the artist and social ringleader Dese Escobar, and a recreation of Reflection Eternal (2017), an airbrush painting by Los Angeles based Mario Ayala.
Between WALL-E and Da Corte there’s a comic strip image of Krazy Kat, the original cat and mouse strip by cartoonist George Herriman, which ran from 1913 to 1944 in the New York Evening Journal. Except this isn’t a Herriman original; it is based upon a work by Sturtevant, the American artist who became known for her carefully inexact repetitions of other artists’ work. Instead of showing Ignatz (the mouse) hurl a brick at Krazy Kat’s head, Sturtevant shows an intimate scene of concern between the two, the empathetic touch. It is this sense, touch, in its many variations, which draws connections between the works in Lynch’s group show.
Alone, this would be a lot to absorb. Yet Lynch takes us further and further, hanging a series of composite works atop the murals, a secondary selection of artworks, collaged together from the vast collection of material he brought together during the initial stages of his residency in Mexico City. Breaking it all down is nigh on impossible, but a brief survey notices: spray painted universes, illustrated cards, laser cut Disney stencils which Lynch painted at a children’s weekend workshop in Parque México, lenticular puppies, wolves and tigers, a bald eagle torn from a calendar, bejazzled stick-on hearts, tattoo-transfers, decorated fingernails cut out of nail art magazines, anonymous handwritten letters that were delivered to the artist’s flat, and drawings and painted segments which could be authored by Lynch or another anonymous artist; the distinction is deliberately unclear.
Each resultant artwork is part of a solution to a grand puzzle, a jigsaw which requires every piece of collected material to find a place. Watching Lynch work this out in the gallery, it is obvious that it is an endeavour of both aesthetic compositions but equally of meaning and poetics. Across disciplines, practices, cultures and contexts, the fragments locate one another, and upon the wooden panels find positions, correlations, relationships and eventually form narratives. Titles such as The One Who Invented Fire (2017) and She Began to Grow up and He Didn’t (2017) suggest stories; however, it is entirely possible to create your own fictions within the confines of a single piece, or between them, reading the exhibition like scattered pages of an exploded book.
Amongst the larger works, a series of smaller pieces are assembled onto reproductions that Lynch brought from city street vendors, of Klimt’s The Kiss (1907-08), da Vinci’s The Creation of Adam (1477-80) and Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889). By building with iconic, recognisable moments from art history, moments that have hit the mainstream and become part of a wider cultural-unconscious, Lynch supplements their prevailing meaning with newer contemporary references and cosmopolitan collisions. Furthermore, collectively they stand against the often quoted concept of Benjamin’s aura, suggesting that it is in fact the grand multiplicity of fabrication that has made these works recognisable in probably every city, town and rural village worldwide.
Lastly, there are a few sculptural pieces, two chairs, a table and a couch dotted through the gallery. Altered with coloured plasticine, the chairs have grown brightly coloured clawed feet, and in the case of The Quiet Man (2017), grown a head impaled with a dagger. They have the quality of claymation creations brought to life by quiet individuals who work tirelessly each evening to animate inanimate forms, breathing figurative, expressive moods into static material. Each has a presence beyond itself, like an additional spectator in the room.
In a way Lynch goes beyond that favourite art jargon term, juxtaposition. To juxtapose implies the contrasting of one thing against another to stress the difference, often at the expense of one. Lynch instead overwhelms with a thousand different elements. A de Vinci caught between sliced baloney and a vibrating cat, partially covered with lenticular swans, with God turned into a Cyclops. Combinations continue tending towards infinity, all working together to demonstrate an equality and shared value.
This is where the unravelling of art history happens: supplying the visitor with Lynch’s preferential moments in the wider history of art, he challenges us to defuse the narratives we have been taught, and told, and become invested in because it supports an existing economic structure. After we abandon this, we can start moving back and forth across the gallery, investigating points and relating them to others, drawing upon our own hidden knowledge reserves, picking up on connotations and correlations and influences we would not normally reference.
This is the type of exhibition you want to come back to with a different friend each time; to enjoy the myriad exchanges that are possible, to discover new pockets of information and discuss new connections. It celebrates the sincerity of anyone who is sincere about the art they make, and whilst Lynch positions himself amongst those unknown figures, he does not aim to elevate himself above them.
I’d also like to say a thank you to Ernesto Alejandro Guzman Gamboa, a neighbour of Anonymous Gallery, who gave an impromptu exhibition tour at the opening, based entirely on his own reading and interpretations of Different Dances. An act which matched perfectly the ethos of the art.
También me gustaría agradecer a Ernesto Alejandro Guzmán Gamboa, un vecino de Anonymous Gallery, quien nos dio un tour espontáneo por la exposición el día de la inauguración. Basándose totalmente en su propia lectura e interpretación de Different Dances. Un acto que correspondió perfectamente al ethos del arte que se presenta en la exposición.
Brendan Lynch: Different Dances is currently on at Anonymous Gallery, Mexico City (16/11 – 30/12, 2017)
Elliott Burns is an independent curator, exhibition production-er, writer, ex-artist, sometimes photographer, occasional teacher, approximate art technician, able bartender, decent cook, events co-ordinator, budget organiser, spreadsheet handler, competent admin-er, and happy copy-editor.
Since graduating from MA Culture, Criticism and Curation at Central Saint Martins he has worked exhibition production on Art Night, a one night contemporary arts festival in central London, and co-curated What Do You Meme?, an exhibition of meme culture. Recently he has co-founded Off Site Project, an online exhibition space.