Saturday, January 23, 2010
Matthew Cusick: Cease To Exist
[“Charlie’s Angels” (2009). Maps, book pages, Folger’s Coffee, ink on wood panel. “Many Rivers” (2009). Inlaid maps & acrylic on wood panel. “The Colony” (2009). Inlaid maps & acrylic on wood panel.]
Apparitions lurk behind muscle cars, celebrity culture, ubiquitous freeway interchanges, and manicured golf courses in the new work of Matthew Cusick at Pavel Zoubok Gallery being shown through February 6, 2010. Incorporating maps and other printed materials into understatedly grim collage-based painting, his landscapes and studies convey Southern California’s more nihilistic corners. Recently featured in Katharine Harmon’s “The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2009), “Cease to Exist” marks Cusick’s solo debut at Pavel Zoubok.
“Charlie’s Angels”—depicting convicted Charles Manson “family” murderers Susan Atkins (1948–2009), one-time homecoming princess Leslie Van Houten, and former Catechism teacher Patricia Krenwinkel—is the centerpiece and sole figurative work of the show and indicative of the Southern California milieu at the onset of the 1970s so jarringly captured by Cusick. Embedded in their skin creases are map fragments showing geographic locations of their murder spree. Zombie-like and cloaked in textbook pages on the nature of the family from the Sociology of Child Psychology (1966), the three tread upon a carpet of Folger’s Coffee in a reference to their victim Abigail Folger (1943–1969)—an heiress to the Folger Coffee fortune. Stabbed 28 times in the rampage upon the Cielo Drive residence of Roman Polanski, Folger was a civil rights worker who had volunteered in the Los Angeles mayoral campaign of Tom Bradley and the seminal 1968 presidential campaign of Senator Robert F. Kennedy after having served as publicity director for the University of California Art Museum in Berkeley.
The exhibition title “Cease to Exist” refers to the song written by the monster Manson and recorded by the Beach Boys in 1968 under the title “Never Learn Not to Love” as the B-side of their “Birds Over the Mountain” single and included in their 1969 album “20/20.” Beach Boy Dennis Wilson—a former acquaintance of Manson—rewrote the melody and changed some of the lyrics. For instance, rather than opening with Manson’s original—and sinister—“cease to exist,” Wilson altered them to the sexual come-on “cease to resist.” The song was credited solely to Dennis Wilson. The connection between the Manson Family and the “squeaky clean” surfer image of the Beach Boys underscores the duality of innocence and malevolence in Cusick’s work in which desire co-exists with repulsion.
Hindsight is indeed 20/20 and to review these lyrics with knowledge of the brutal Manson rampage is chilling: “Pretty girl, pretty, pretty girl, cease to exist. Just come and say you love me. Give up your world. C'mon you can see I'm your kind, I'm your kind. You can see. Walk on, walk on. I love you pretty girl. My life is yours and you can have my world. Never had a lesson I ever learned. But I know we all get our turn. I love you. Submission is a gift. Go on, give it to your brother. Love and understanding is for one another. I'm your kind, I'm your kind. I'm your mind. I'm your brother. I never had a lesson I ever learned. But I know we all get our turn. And I love you. Never learned not to love you. I never learned.”
Loneliness, alienation, and isolation are downright visceral in this ensemble by Cusick, who has previously captured oblique aerial images of Texas highways traversing allegorical landscapes and depictions emerging from Hollywood films in respective shows at Lisa Dent Gallery (San Francisco) and Glenn Horowitz Bookseller (East Hampton). In dissecting books into fragments and combining them into inlaid and intricate works with unintended contexts, Cusick parallels human knowledge acquisition. Without being pedantic, Cusick offers the viewer a provocative yet playful exploration that is wonderfully cerebral.
Matthew Cusick: Cease To Exist
Through February 6, 2010
@ Pavel Zoubok Gallery
533 West 23rd Street, New York City 10011