dumb planets are round too
November 1 - December 21, 2002
John Isaacs probes contemporary experience with a mixture of fiendishness and romanticism. Half mad scientist, half poet, he recklessly juxtaposes unlikely phenomena-Gothic spectacle and cellulite, sci-fi and naked girls, fiddler crabs and millennial anxiety-in a murky quagmire. Like most of us, he is unable to stop himself from being saturated by an infinitely multiplying mass of images, machines, and gossip. In his latest body of work, the London artist's fascination with his own helplessness before the tidal heap is dispersed over multiple media and formats. In this exhibition figurative sculptures, photographs, an installation, and a video form an ambitious constellation of interconnected meanings.
In the photographic series, "A World Without Men," posed naked girls appear alongside images of a curtain or a cave in an abstruse narrative sequence. His collection of photographs, some manipulated, some found, some taken himself, are displayed as eerie, discordant symptoms of a corrupted culture.
Isaacs video, "The Turning Point," documents a grant-funded project he pursued in 1999 where, in a comical collision of pseudo-science and magic thinking, he earnestly recorded the reaction of Trinidadian fiddler crabs to the coming millennium. He combined a deadpan execution of the detailed study with snippets of commentary from the locals who weighed in on the contagious apocalyptic anxiety.
"Dumb Planets are Round Too," features a darkened installation where magical glowing flowers and a pool of gurgling, steaming water rise from giant trompe-l'oeil slabs of raw meat. A projected wall of digitally created ocean swells fills the background, accompanied by a narration of a woman speaking in Russian. The artist wrote the text and conceives of it as part eulogy, part treatise, using the language to conjure isolation, anachronism, and struggle. The hypnotic oration amidst a surreal, quietly alien landscape illuminates both the failure and hope inherent in global political negotiations.
Isaacs' wax sculptures depict flesh after it has been subjected to violent intervention. In "Thinking About It," a small tree sprouts from a half-flayed head. Isaacs inflects death with memory by attaching an emblem of thought to a slab of viscera. In "Bad Miracle," the goriest, most overwhelming piece in the show, Isaacs has created a symbolic repository for the pandemic dread and sorrow associated with the human condition. A corpulent, naked portrait of the artist, the sculpture functions as an anti-hero. He is paralyzed by his own over-consumption, mired in a fleshly eruption of bulges, sags, and pustules. Isaacs links this piece to the portrait of Dorian Gray, and describes it as having "accumulated all the bad things I have not just done but seen, heard, or read about from friends, television, newspapers, etc. and made them visible this figure stands as a visible effigy to-for want of a better word-evil." An earthly equivalent to Star Wars' Jabba the Hutt, or a cousin of Austin Powers' Fat Bastard, Isaacs' "Bad Miracle" is also demented and hilarious.
John Isaacs has exhibited his work extensively throughout Europe. This is his first solo exhibition in New York