Jonathan Lyndon Chase is all about the funk. His painting show at Thierry Goldberg is full of thick lips and protruding asses, wayward bling in the form of gold paint, and all kinds of gender play and urban symbology that read as a conglomeration of commerce, self-aware role playing, and genuine sexual desire. The combination of imagery calls up the experiences of young, gay men of color that are quite often politicized and also recruited into popular culture where they’re channeled into outré performance on platforms such as music videos. In fact, it’s best to talk about the show in terms of harmonics.
The almost musical structure of the exhibition Sweet and Hard is meant to mess with you. There is the faux-naïve figuration that consists of overlapping moments or perspectives such as in “Pink Lips and Halo” (2016) which act as odd, discordant melodies that skate on top of an insistent, driving bass of gay sexuality. The signs of urban blackness punctuate the score like fluttering woodwinds: Nike swoosh symbols are featured on the feet of a naked body; dollar signs and gold glitter seem to form a tiara on the head of someone with a big, onion booty. Adding to the ensemble are gender-fluid figures: a mouth with plump lips is swathed in rouge and then there’s a goatee underneath that mouth. If you lose yourself in the scattershot figuration it’s okay, because you find you are left with chocolate, carnal bodies that are inviting you to come into their house.
This exhibition is heavy on the orifices and the possibilities of how to engage them. In the work “Moob” (2016) a set of legs and a hole that seems to describe an anus are drawn to overlap another set of the same body parts, imparting the idea that the body is a kind of envelope through which objects, feelings, and ideas enter and exit. This made me think that we — all of us of the human tribe — are all essentially bodies that behave as a kind of membrane through which things pass in and through: food, water, whiskey, smoke, a lover’s body, their scent, and their fluids. Life itself is a version of the rhythms of sex, all about the passage of these things, in and out of ourselves over time. In terms of what comes out, I don’t just mean what we produce as waste but that which we willingly share with intimate partners: tears, sweat, what we produce in orgasm, all the bits of ourselves that we often keep within the realm of the private. This is a discombobulating aspect of the exhibition. It feels quite raw and exposed, like you shouldn’t know this much about these characters Chase has invented. Nevertheless, they are present and outspoken, and bold in their sweetness.
Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s Sweet and Hard continues at Thierry Goldberg gallery (103 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan) through August 5.