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"Hugh Mendes: Death from Above"
2007-04-18 until 2007-05-05
Sartorial Contemporary Art
UK United Kingdom
Sartorial Contemporary Art in London is delighted to announce a new exhibition of paintings by Hugh Mendes. Over the past few years, Mendes has become known for a singular vision based on the mundane and never-ending procession of text and pictures he finds in newspaper clippings, and especially obituaries.
The exhibition will also include an installation of dozens of newspaper clippings fastened to a wall of the gallery, a reproduction of a wall in the artist‚s studio. The patchwork of disaster and violence, or, at times, grace and beauty, creates a powerful counterpoint to the paintings. At once throwaway and poignant, Mendes mines the everyday to create strange memorials to the constant spin of history.
Pop stars, dictators, nobodies: just about everyone earns the same number of column inches on the obituary page, and they are all treated equally by Mendes. Death and daily news provide a ceaseless parade of subject matter for the artist, and he paints as if he were attempting to slow the pace of history. In one, Saddam Hussein looks askance, his shirt collar wide open, looking half like a bug-eyed crook, half like an ageing playboy. A snapshot from the trial that led to his death, he looks more vulnerable, touched by both fear and a greater complexity of emotion than we usually attribute to the dictator. We may even feel a pang of sympathy, our memory haunted by the pixilated clips of his rough and clumsy hanging. Half a world away, James Brown reclines in his soft, luxurious coffin, the headline, The Godfather of Soul rising above his corpse as if the essence of his being were ascending to heaven.
This sense of dislocation is a strong note in the show. Afloat from any context, the headline a vengeful God, eager for blood‚ seems to address current events in general, rather than just the state of Iraq , the context of the words. The picture, a cadaverous figure adorned in the thick folds of a Galliano dress, looks draped in slabs of bloody flesh. The model, with her white skin and hard, staring eyes, looks risen from the dead. A collision of two worlds: fashion and war, violence and luxury, metaphysics and ephemera. The great touch on this painting is the fragment of a quotation that runs along the bottom of the picture: . . . dition in which we live . . . While the full word is almost certainly condition‚ it has been decapitated, leaving it open to other possibilities: rendition, tradition, sedition or just dition‚ an obsolete word for kingdom or rule. Yet, more than anything, the headless word emphasizes how Mendes builds his paintings from a pile-up of fragments.
Craig Burnett March 2007
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