Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
LOS ANGELES — The Grief I Have Caused You, currently on display at Nicodim Gallery, is artist and musician Devendra Banhart’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles. “The ‘you’ in the title is you,” Banhart clarified in an email to Hyperallergic. The show’s press release alludes to the shared experience of the pandemic, along with a constellation of references akin to an Allen Ginsberg poem. “I recently realized that when I first started making art it was all about ‘being me’ as much as possible,” Banhart wrote. “Over time, I’ve realized that it’s really about being less and less and less ‘me.’”
This theme takes the form of the body’s undoing, a literal unraveling of selfhood. The exhibition is rooted in the artist’s study of Chöd Buddhism and the practice of offering up one’s entire body. The painting “The Kiss”(2021) implies a fragmented affinity with the self, a fleshy, double-orificed face folded inwards. Banhart plays with repulsion, figures turning themselves inside out until the body is defamiliarized. “I would paint something repulsive till it started to crack me up,” Banhart wrote. Many figures retain this mix of the grotesque and funny — impish, puckering faces that look on the verge of either vomiting or laughing.
In a mash-up of European modernist styles, Banharts’s works also feature landmarks such as the Brahmaputra River and Jongsong Peak. The Venezuelan-American artist has never been shy about incorporating other cultures into his work. However, the dogged East-West dichotomy in the show echoes the trope of Western artists mining Eastern philosophy for aesthetic fodder. Declarations of universal suffering from a white male celebrity can come across as condescending in a city like Los Angeles where the pandemic’s impact is decidedly stratified.
The high symbolism and complex imagery of Banhart’s lyrics also find their way into his paintings. “Barbarous Nomenclature” (2020) is a tangle of strange signifiers — a crumpled ice cream cone, a toothy deity, a pair of cherries grazing a dick — tying together the divine, the erotic, and the monstrous. Any fan of his music will recognize the minimalist drawings from his album covers. An admirer of Cy Twombly, Banhart speaks to his own sparse use of line: “I will go through 50 to 100 drawings to get to the right line, the one that emits … the one you can hear.” It’s as though he is exchanging breath and rhythm for pencil and ink. While Banhart falters in his assumed ability to speak to any “you,” his drawings, which are kind of shaky and sparse, succeed in being intimate and vulnerable without making grandiose claims about universal suffering.
Devendra Banhart: The Grief I Have Caused You continues at Nicodim Gallery (1700 S Santa Fe Ave #160, Downtown, Los Angeles) through March 20.
Poussin and the Dance is a valiant attempt to break into Poussin’s staunchly academic oeuvre and provide a relatable point of entry, highlighting the exciting elements of revelry and movement despite impenetrable and unemotional rendering.
Anarchist illustrator N.O. Bonzo produces decentralized media in a highly bureaucratic cultural landscape. Their illustrations, murals, and literature emerge in unexpected places, from the streets of Portland, Oregon, to the far ends of Reddit and Twitter, addressing relations of labor and identity in the workplace and on the streets. Growth and care are central themes…
This exhibition explores how images of the human body were used to provoke profound physical and emotional responses in viewers from the 15th through 18th centuries.
With scavenged materials, Amanda Maciel Antunes constructs a motherland.
Where are the directors taking the stage to acknowledge workers’ demands today?
The collaborative handmade paper- and printmaking center at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts publishes new works by Liz Collins and Sarah McEneaney.
There is a debate whether the memory of Little Syria should be seized upon to tell truthful and positive stories about Arabs in the US, or whether any conflation between its history and contemporary politics is inappropriate.
The profile includes works by Egon Schiele, Amedeo Modigliani, Peter Paul Rubens, and a prehistoric Venus of Willendorf figurine.
These horrifying dolls definitely won’t murder you in your sleep.