Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jeremy Willis at Du Mois


This show is really kind of gross. I had never heard of the artist, but his flamboyant paintings are in boisterously bad taste.  I like them a lot. It takes talent to make such eloquently stomach-churning work, and Jeremy Willis has a flair for revisiting pop, expressionism and the Liepzig School in canvases that take no prisoners but rather colorfully squeeze the vital essences, and possibly body fluids, out of his subjects. So who, or what, is Willis? It turns out that he is an Uptown Nola native who ended up in Brooklyn by way of Amherst and Providence, and his paintings blend something of de Kooning's manic early 1950s women with Francis Bacon's lushly Hannibal Lecter-esque renderings of dislocated, if vividly hued, body parts. But Willis is to those polished icons of painterly virtuosity what Sid Vicious was to the London Philharmonic: pretty raw. Even so, if his brush strokes were really as crude as they seem, none of this would work and we would be left confronting a muddle. So it is to his credit that his paintings confront US instead; you wouldn't want to meet up with one in a dark alley. That Sid Vicious meets Francis Bacon sensibility defines HANGOVER HEADGEAR, top, but TEARS, below, is more complex, an oozing maelstrom of quivering primary colors with smeared crimson lips and white teeth ricocheting off a double vision of a female head--one yellow, one green--in full meltdown mode, and it's all quite repellent if morbidly fascinating. The aptly titled FUCK OFF CREEP, above right, is a latter day nightclub scene, a cool inferno of mauve, cobalt and yellow featuring two babes and a guy, a blabbering paragon of  attitude seated at a table. Here everything is reduced to its visceral essence of discomfited flesh, queasy colors and dislocated auras, a visual parable of civilization's decline as it is reenacted daily in a million minor ways. In this show, Willis takes those quotidian human gestures and makes them intriguing. ~Bookhardt

FEAR IS A MAN'S BEST FRIEND: Paintings by Jeremy Willis, Through Nov. 5, Du Mois Gallery, 4921 Freret St., 818-6032;