Tales of the Flesh 2: Born Adversaries : Carole Caroompas / Patrick Lee / Aaron Sheppard

October 13 - October 24, 2016
Open Thursday through Sunday, 12:00 - 4:00 PM

Opening Reception Thursday October 13, 5:00 - 9:00 PM

4619 W. Washington Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016

Carole Caroompas Fairy Tales: Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), 1989, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 84 inches

Carole Caroompas
Fairy Tales: Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty), 1989, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 84 inches

Western Project is proud to present a group exhibition, Tales of the Flesh Part 2: Born Adversaries, featuring Carole Caroompas, Patrick Lee and Aaron Sheppard at FOUR SIX ONE NINE (4619 W. Washington Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90016) Each artist works and lives in Southern California and has exhibited numerous times with the gallery. This special pop up exhibition highlights a second look at work that addresses the human figure as a narrative source. All three artists work with the body/figure as an origin of story telling for political, social, historical and/or erotic purposes.

Carole Caroompas is perhaps the most underrated yet influential painter of her generation, producing 30 plus years of hard-core figurative works unlike any other female counterpart. As an artist she is no Joan of Arc martyr of the early feminist moment, but more the Hindu Kali figure disrupting and fiercely reconfiguring ideas and images. Caroompas has never settled for simplistic questions or answers, and her work has never been polite. It challenges our notions of power and gender, and relationships between men and women, most often in large, epic scale works; monster-scale cosmologies dissecting our cultural assumptions of what is normal and/or true. Her use of collaged imagery creates a fragmented, non-linear narrative; on first glance appearing as the dream-like nature of the mind but is instead a highly organized composition. Her signature format is a visual and conceptual overload: a Surrealistic collage aesthetic on steroids.

Included in this exhibition are works from the series, Fairy Tales (1988 - 1990), and Before and After Frankenstein: The Woman That Knew Too Much (from 1991 - 1994).  In these pieces Caroompas reworks our assumptions - as she has written “to deconstruct sexist and authoritarian perspective in order to retell and reconstruct the narrative”. It is a kind of gleeful (and theatrical) remapping or rewriting of cultural binary norms: scripting alternate histories and myths as incisive new sets of possibilities. In both the Grimms’ Fairytale series and Before and After Frankenstein: The Woman Who Knew Too Much, the artist uses a heavy dose of humor to cajole the viewer through her kaleidoscopic imagery. Violence, sex and humor become a lethal combo, echoing the exciting and disturbing films of Russ Meyer or Quentin Tarantino. The difference is, she is not kidding. In the same way science fiction can talk about psychological and ethical issues (a la Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein), Caroompas’ tales evoke hopes of a new world; outlaw at first glance, ultimately as romantic as the Sex Pistols Here Comes The Bullocks. In our age of seven billion plus hall monitors, it is remarkable to witness conviction without compromise.

Patrick Lee Deadly Friends (Bullet Chain), 2014, graphite on paper, 16 x 1

Patrick Lee
Deadly Friends (Bullet Chain), 2014, graphite on paper, 16 x 1

The drawings of Patrick Lee have for twenty years dealt with the poignancy of human experience. Creating immensely detailed portraits of real people found on the streets of America, his work has a profundity and presence not typically found in academic portraiture. Quite possibly because he is interested in people on the fringe of American culture: the poor, addicted, abused or unlucky. His graphite drawings are typically one and a half size larger than human scale, producing a monumentality unassociated with depictions of the downtrodden. Using photographs of his subjects as well as long interviews, Lee is able to conjure a likeness that has tangible feeling more than pure accurateness. He is fascinated with ideas of masculinity: how it is acquired and developed for power and sex, along with its shifting qualities. His interest in the outer edges of society are its’ reflection; appearances mask the vital essence of our humanity. Unlike the bleak realism of Ingmar Berman’s films, Lee’s images are perhaps more similar to the humanist film work of Jean-Luc Goddard. Lee’s images point only to the subjects, not the artist or the art world. His drawings emanate a kind of dignity and respect that is not romanticized or illustrated. It appears only in the minds’ recognition of a tangible ‘us-ness’ of his images. They are us and we are them: scarred, tattooed, drugged and impoverished. But simultaneously magnificent.

Aaron Sheppard is an artist’s artist. His work traverses painting, sculpture, drawing, performance, and installation. The new Double Wide With Hydra, is his version of Dürer's Feast of the Rosary from 1506. Sheppard’s sensibility has always appeared profane, gritty and often taboo, but internally contains the humility of spiritual adoration. He thematically hopscotches across time, history and styles often using classical compositions as a trope to explore more fluid ideas about desire and sexuality. From the formal religious painting Feast of the Rosary, Sheppard has created a circus barge of characters:

“A Victorian mermaid queen with two vaginas allows Dante closer examination of her "second beauty". Baby Jesus fish crowns Captain Nemo while he himself gets crowned by the fangs of Leviathan. Eek the Geek waits in line to meet the Mer-Queen, as do characters from Alice in Wonderland, a pregnant Zulu princess, Judas, a dragon, a clown, a cannibal, Death...even Dürer himself. They flank her like kids at the mall waiting to sit on Santa's lap. A barker donning Gallagher's top hat hands out halos and urinates on the crowd."

Aaron Sheppard DETAIL: Double Wide with Hydra , 2016, mixed media, 90 x 216 inches

Aaron Sheppard
DETAIL: Double Wide with Hydra , 2016, mixed media, 90 x 216 inches

He often presents human biological variation as  gifted saints come to deliver a different message: life is all forms, and desires all forms. Mary as mermaid with two vaginas. Is this reverence, blasphemy or Bhakti? Is this a divine freak show? Dante is beguiled and bewitched by his desire as are all the figures surrounding the mermaid. This work addresses his question, “is it not possible to have earthly and heavenly delights simultaneously? Use and enjoy it all while still properly expressing love? Have your cake and eat it too (without losing/off with your head)?”

Sheppard’s enormous 20 foot painting is mural size, nearly identical to the scale of Ensor’sChrist’s Entry Into Brussels from 1889. Both share an expressionistic quality and energy; each event stylistically depicted with grotesque figures enhancing the pathos of human drama. Additionally, his paint quality is forcefully ragged yet calculated. It is a kind of pop or camp expressionism, able to suggest the emotionality and fervor of sex and desire; a fury of exaggeration in which Life is seen as flourishing.

The right panel of Double Wide may contain another moral tale: in a cave Hercules is battling the Leviathan threatening the mermaid, while his own penis is sprouting into the Hydra itself. Consumed by one’s own craving? It is perhaps the similar path.

Sheppard gives no answers except to suggest that the complexity of mortal life is to be enjoyed; variance is a gift, the pageantry is to be participated in, and living is immediate and vital. However in another moment, he writes, “I don’t know what it is all about. Fantasy and fish, piss and cherub cock…”


It is all good. 


Carole Caroompas’ work was recently include in, Romancing the West: A Legacy of American Images, William Roland Fine Art Gallery at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, California and Lore and Behold: The Art of Carole Caroompas, at The Boone Family Gallery at Pasadena City College, Pasadena California. She has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, LACMA, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C. She has also been the recipient of numerous artist grants such as, National Endowment for the Arts (twice), The Esther and Adolph Gottlieb Foundation and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. 

In September 2016, Patrick Lee is the subject of a Solo Exhibition and Drawing Workshop at the Huntington Museum of Art, West Virginia. He has had numerous national and international exhibitions. He was included in, Drawings for the New Century, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, B-B-B-BAD, an exhibition with attitudes, at Anna Kustera Gallery, New York, Male at Maureen Paley Gallery, London, UK, curated by Vince Aletti, and Lush Life at Salon 94, New York. He has also exhibited at Ameringer McEnery Yohe in New York, the Francis Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, the Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, North Carolina, University of La Verne, La Verne, California, Howard House in Seattle, Washington, and the Marc Selwyn Gallery in Los Angeles, California. He is in the collection of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Georgia Museum of Fine Arts, Georgia, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas. He is also a recipient of the Peter S. Reed Foundation grant for 2006.

Aaron Sheppard recently appeared in the Nameless Skypeband performing at Sraatliche Akademie Der Bildenden Künste Karlsruhe (Academy of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe, Germany), performed and inaugurated Bearded and Shucked, 1st Annual Mermaid Parade, Joshua Tree, California. He is a 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 many others.