from Proximity Magazine
Paul Nudd and Nick Black at Antena
February 20 - March 21, 2009
A myth within a myth spoke to us unconsciously of a time before history in which a group of ape-people, known as the “primal horde,” cowered in fear before the arbitrary but absolute brutality of a male who neither shared nor gave away anything, but ate, penetrated, defiled, and pummeled anything and anyone he pleased. Eventually the feared male is killed, and the guilt causes the group to project reverence onto a “totem,” an animal or other such image that serves as a common ancestor and protector of the group, while the horror at communal castration causes the totem to be represented in magical erotic objects, or fetishes. Just as Freud’s archetypal birth of perversion was declared obsolete by the evolving consensus of the supposedly scientific psychoanalytic community, it became apparent that the anxiety caused by the desire to kill the violent, cruel, jealous, animalistic “primal father” was a strikingly appropriate motif for the denuded manhood of a sedentary, rootless, commodity-worshipping modern culture.
In their show at Antena, “The Pour Rubber,” Paul Nudd and Nick Black have created a cabinet of curiosities that indexes every form of phobic jizz dripping from the hindbrain of modern masculinity. Among Nick Black’s frisky Frankensteined toy automata, a suspicious duck-billed Santa Claus farts loudly while bouncing a naked Chinese baby doll on his knee. In another, a brown-skinned baby dominatrix yanks the chain leash for a half-naked smiling white anchorman type on all fours in a little “Pet Shop” set, accompanied by the immortal strains of House of Pain’s “Jump Around.” Evil smoke pours from sundry openings in Paul Nudd’s large black sculptural heads. Nudd’s pieces also feature large drawings advertising unseemly balms, salves, and chutneys, and video screens portraying colorful fluids and solids emerging from and retreating within frantically quivering orifices. The ideas could be partially summarized as tongue-in-cheek dioramas of implied profanation, but Black’s delicate DIY engineering and Nudd’s effortless repurposing of graphic design and video production are so ruggedly handsome in their presentation than they elevate pubescent naughtiness to a level of Baroque grandeur.
This installation could be considered as a museum of triggers for anxieties linked to buried traumas and/or violations of deeply instilled boundaries. A museum, rather than a chamber of horrors, because the artists put their visual provocations into a well-lit space and abstract them beyond any clear depictions of brutality or obscenity. This taxonomically impersonal defanging of psychological and moral strictures recalls the analytical, affectless cruelty of the Marquis de Sade, a “primal father” for modernity if there ever was one.
But what the show celebrates is hilarity, playing off the letter against the spirit of laws around taboo. Black and Nudd express their mischief through imaginative fetishistic props that create erotic drama, a practice Gilles Deleuze associates with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, namesake of sadism’s partner syndrome, masochism. Deleuze claims, opposing him to Sade, that “Masoch aspires to a world of suspense and waiting, and thus aestheticizes the real as a series of tableaux vivants.” These fetishes erase the “lack” of the mother’s phallus, and so this immersively titillating show leaves us with the secret truth of our era: the “primal father” is a dominant mother, an amazon lurking in the scat-fantasies of a few dozen generations with no fatherhood ideal. But through the corrosive power of office humor, the male employee of the MILF CEO secretly retains control. Without apology or vulgarity, Black and Nudd’s elegantly crafted work portray dilemnas at the heart of the modern gender divide with tenderness and some uncanny awe.
by Bert Stabler