The McLoughlin Gallery is currently hosting a two-person exhibition marking the American debut of artists Arnix and Max Papeschi called Iconoclasm. As the name might suggest, it’s a somewhat quirky and unusual show, and is not subtle in its critiques of power and popular culture.
Both artists take satirical and deeply critical looks at power, the people and institutions in power and how power is communicated through propaganda and pop culture. Arnix (aka Arnix Wilnoudt) takes aim directly at seats of power in religion, the military and politics. His harshest and strongest work is reserved for the Catholic Church, including hypocrisy around sexuality and power and the continuing sexual abuse scandals. He is steeped in knowledge of the Church’s history, theology and rituals, and uses those as the framework in which he places images of human sexual organs, silicone heads of pigs and other elements.
[Arnix, The Forbidden Fruit. Mixed media, 1870 chapel brass and silicone. Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
The pieces can be challenging to look at, but also quite strong both visually and in execution. The artifacts, such as the 1870 chapel brass in the piece The Forbidden Fruit, shown above, were rescued from a church in The Netherlands. The pig head is cast in silicone, but using actual pig hides in the casting process to give it an eerily realistic texture. These elements, along with the human sexual organs (both male and female) recur in many of the pieces. Rescued artifacts, including angel statues and ash cups are prominently featured in the largest piece of exhibition, The Last Judgement: The Revelation.
The bright, airy space of the gallery and the reflective surfaces of the metal components makes the piece seem very open and inviting and belies its darker qualities around trauma, another theme in Arnix’s work. However, he doesn’t reserve all his criticisms for religion. In Known Unto God, an installation that includes an audio element, he criticizes both the loss of life in war, and way populations remain silence in the face of their leaders’ misadventures.
[Arnix, Known Unto God. Brass, Mixed media, Audio. Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
There is humor in his work as well. His series of panels depicting the “seven deadly sins” are quite fun, both with the individualized pigs and the modernist iconography that leaves one guessing which sin is being depicted (I managed to get them all right).
[Arnix, Seven Deadly Sins. Installation Print on plexiglass and silicone pigs. Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
Humor is Max Papeschi’s work. He brings together powerful political figures from history, images of disasters, and commercial or pop-culture icons in unexpected ways, and in doing so takes aim at both commercialism and propaganda, i.e., the idea that we can sell anything. Perhaps the most stark example is the use of Mickey Mouse to “sell” Nazis.
[Max Papeschi, NaziPinkieMouse. Digital collage (Edition of 7). Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
A major part of commercial culture is product placement, sometimes inappropriately done, as in this advertisement for Coca Cola in the World War II bombing raid.
[Max Papeschi, Product Placement 2.0. Digital collage (Edition of 7). Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
The humor is a little less dark in his series where famous (or infamous) leaders are placed on familiar figures from entertainment and pop culture. Indeed, a few of these were a lot of fun (Saddam Hussein has a disco dancer is particularly amusing).
[Max Papeschi, Vladimir & Joseph. Digital collage (Edition of 7). Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
[Max Papeschi, Ramadan Night Fever. Digital collage (Edition of 7). Image courtesy of The McLoughlin Gallery.]
These digital collages are not at all done to disguise the editing, indeed the Photoshopping is quite obvious. But that is probably the point, the bluntness and obviousness of the image. They stick with the viewer even after leaving show.
Iconoclasm will be on display at The McLoughlin Gallery (49 Geary St, San Francisco) through Saturday, May 31.