Appetitive Torque at Eastside International
By Genie Davis
Through April 22nd
Eastside International has another provocative exhibition running through April 22nd, Appetitive Torque. Curated by Loren Britton and Rocket Caleshu, the show features the work of artists Cheyenne Julien, Gaby Collins-Fernandez, and Christina Quarles; and of writers Vanessa Baish, Rin Johnson, Martha Oatis, and Matt Polzin.
The artist-run gallery describes the title of the show as “a natural desire to satisfy bodily needs…the appetitive behavior of animals” combined with a definition of torque as “a twisting force that tends to cause rotation.” So what appetites does this show explore? And which desires does it twist? Viewers will encounter mixed-media abstracts that leap off the wall with color and shape; sinuous bodies in impossible positions; images that are close-ups or sections of the body.
Starting with Gaby Collins-Fernandez’ appropriately named “Let’s Talk about Taste,” this is a tactile and textural piece that begs the viewer to touch it. The New York-based Collins-Fernandez uses materials that can only be described as sensual, with thick paint, strips and slivers of fabric, and words that suggest conversation – each element a layer of both visual and meaning in the overall piece.
Cheyenne Julien’s Untitled oil on canvas is tactile in a different sense, a swirl of almost touchable cigarette smoke rising from a red hand, projecting from what could be a missile; a brown hand upraised as if to stop the diffusion of the toxic cloud. Another Untitled piece, this one acrylic on canvas, features two profiles facing off, one with a half-visible phrase of “love” on the cheek, the other with a half-visible package of premium gum. In the background, a brown door or portal leads to a yellow building. Here it is perhaps the taste of gum being chewed, the taste of love not achieved, the textured look of skin that has an inward glow as if cast in bronze and sunlight. While this artist is also based on the East Coast, her colors seem tropical and intense, surreal and sultry.
The Los Angeles-based Christina Quarles offers a Picasso-like take on love making, two bodies intertwined, highly defined brush strokes on hair and what looks like a picnic cloth, bodies smooth, as silky looking as skin. In “Just Hold On and I’ll Hold ‘Em Off,” the acrylic on canvas work features a woman with a small child or human-like creature – its color and shape somewhat amorphous – plunged and trapped inside a very dimensional flowered mattress. The artist says that her work uses “perspectival planes that both situate and fragment the bodies they bisect.” Her work imposes a rhythm of transformative pattern and shape, bodies melting through object and design.
Each of these artists’ works are visually manipulative, leading the viewer to contemplate the palette, the texture, the dimensional aspects of the works. To hunger, if one will continue with the “appetitive” title, for understanding. There is a voluptuousness to each work, which is also the case with the written materials of Vanessa Baish, Rin Johnson, Martha Oatis, and Matthew Polzin. Polzin’s characters are filled with anger and physicality; Johnson’s poetry asks questions the stimulate the visual such as “How many U turns until I am going in the right direction?” Flora and fauna figure literally and figuratively in the work of Oatis, while Baish uses devotion and love as a weapon of transformation, one that peels away the bitter rind and reveals the sweetness inside or beneath.
And so we are back to taste: the bitter and the sweet. Savor both. Eastside International is located at 602 Moulton Ave. in the Brewery Arts complex.