September 7 - October 26, 2013 Moist Guilding performance: Saturday, September 7, 6:00 - 8:00pm Opening reception for the artist: Saturday, September 14, 6:00 - 8:00pm
Western Project is proud to present the second solo exhibition by Aaron Sheppard. A native of Nebraska and MFA graduate of University of Las Vegas, Sheppard now lives and works in Los Angeles, California.Moist Gilding draws from numerous sources: Mannerist prints, the erotic and transgressive drawings by Franz Von Bayros, illustrations by Sir John Tenniel (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass), the Greek myth of the abduction of Psyche, Louie XIV & XV, and George Bataille's, Eroticism. Sheppard writes:
I am interested in religion, gender and sex as each attempts to categorize the individual and define the individual's place within a society: instituting roles, rituals and traditions... I am a painter that engages in sculpture and body performance for the making of objects.
I engage myself in story....Judeo-Christian lore (The Four Horsemen of Revelation, The Carmina Burana from 13th c. medieval monk preservation), European operatic and orchestral/classical music (Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, and the 666 album by Aphrodite's Child) as well as my own informative coming-of-age experiences surrounding myself with transsexuals and drag queens in New York in search of self, each play a major role in my creative process and thinking for this body of work.
From latex to wood to oil paint or Plexiglas, Sheppard uses materials in the service of collage and his narrative. Mannerist prints are fundamental source material. The narrative and flowing line quality of these historic prints mirror both his gestural drawing facility and iconographic strengths. In his largest work to date, the 10 x 18 foot the tour de force, Salmacian Looking-Glass, Sheppard incorporates wood carving, painting, sculpture, furniture making, and text into an elaborately adorned tableau of seduction and layered histories; a libido intoxicated stage for the 21st century.
In Greek mythology, Salmacia is the name of the water nymph that abducted Hermaphroditus and convinced the Gods to conjoin their bodies, and genders, into one. Sheppard convolutes both imagery and meaning in his expansive composition. The central image in the multi-paneled painting references an Alice in Wonderland tea party; now as an erotic afternoon dream where gender and roles are undefined and fluid, the adjoining panels depict a larger vision of the affair as a sensual and deadly cinema-scope; who and what is the courtesan, who is what gender, or for that matter - who decides?
The entire image is contained within a gold-leafed carving of another legend:
Beyond fantastical in recreating a crude version of Rococo, my frame surrounds this painting not only with its own adjoining exemplifier of narrative, but also places it into a physical and tangible realm for a "decorated" concentration of an object....
Upon the central frame is carved a selection from The Carmina Burana, (a satire on society and The Bible compiled of songs and poems mainly written and performed by students of the Catholic Church traveling across Europe during the 13th c.) This selection comes from Chapter XVI, which translates from High German into:
"Pedlar, give to me some rouge my cheeks to redden So I, with the boys, better can flirt."
There are references to Da Vinci's The Last Supper - 12 figures (perhaps apostles?) are depicted in the triptych each of who are placed behind a chaise lounge. The chaise suggests a central action upon the viewer to engage by sitting and therefore to become part of the work, seemingly to sit languidly upon a throne. The entire backside of the chaise is painted canvas with drips of red and pink. Is what is seen as a throne for pampering really a sacrificial alter?
The open ended aspect of the work and his intent to pose questions or possibilities for the viewer is Sheppard's generous gift. This is particularly evident in the sculpture, Füßchen, which in German means, little feet or tootsies. This is a mermaid figure; giving birth, breach, not to another of its kind but a legless boy and a penis. Legends of the mermaid suggest they lure men to their death with beauty and song, but here she is an armless serpent of mysteries and fecundity. Sitting atop a tiered Plexiglass stack, her enormous carved foam hairdo is a dense swirling beehive in contrast to her hollowed out eyes and torso of multiple orifices; in all, a hideous yet immensely glamorous siren.
Three large drawings of Psyche Abducting Mercury are after Jan Harmensz Muller prints of a 16th century sculpture. Sheppard's confident line work and emotive rendering turns the classical subject matter into a contemporary erotic dance and struggle. The life size figures seem either vagrants or adorned gods from a Venetian carnival or demonic party. Moist Gilding is a sensual paring of opposites, of identity and meaning; a sense of fragility with the humorous iron fist of the gods.
Aaron Sheppard is a recent recipient of the Peter S. Reed Foundation Achievement Award. He has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria, Volume 1E Brooklyn, New York, and galleries in Tokyo, Beijing, London, Las Vegas and Washington DC. Sheppard has performed in "Conceptualizing the Body: Gaze, Masquerade, and Spectacle", at SUNY College in Old Westbury, New York, the Fringe Festival in Australia, and shown video in, Maid in China(town), Chinese Biennale, Ku Art Center, Beijing China. His work has been written about in BOMB magazine, Artillery, The Huffington Post, Las Vegas Weekly, among others.