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There’s No Way To Use The Word ‘Insouciance’ Without Being A Complete Tool, Is There?

The Problem With Reproduction, 193c Gallery
Greenpoint, Brooklyn

“I got the idea for the name first, then the pictures followed. I was falling asleep one night and there it was.”

The “it” that Andy Bell got while falling asleep was The Problem With Reproduction, his new one-man show; what might not be apparent from the adverts you may have seen is how small a scale he took when looking at reproduction. Not the paintings, they’re all 12 x 24 or 12 x 16 inches; the scale of reproduction. Each of the 22 images in the series takes its shape from one of the (in-scale, proportionately-accurate) chromosomes in the human genome.

In each painting, a black background was masked with a black film featuring little chromosomes, leaving bare wood for the shape of the main image. These windows Bell to filled with his creature-iffic, humorous, occasionally disturbing images. To wit: please enjoy chromosomes 20 and 21 (Sudden Starvation and Defective Delivery, with the un-level photo being entirely my fault).

You can actually see those background chromosomal images somewhat better in photos (where they catch the flash) than with the naked eye. It’s worth looking closely at them, because Bell has them doing things appropriate to the main image. For example, in Inevetible End Bringers (on the left, next to Superfluous Cepalopod), there are little skulls in the mix and the chromosomes form crossbones underneath them. The main images themselves range from playfully anthropomorphized (as in 12, Vindictive Viruses, with the Sam Brownesque eyes and smiles on the bacteriophage) to highly abstracted (as in 22, Fertility Figures).

Being a gender-neutral show, the Y-chromosome was absent. “Plus, you need a second chromosome to match with each of these for there to be reproduction,” says Bell. “What I have on the walls is less than half of a human being.” So will there be a second show, featuring white-backgrounded matching chromosomes? The artist considered his hands, bloody from the effort of completing his work. “No.” He seemed quite cheerful about it.

Rounding out the show were several of Bell’s Zliks figures (look to the lower left corner), eggs filled with skulls, a bird, and a squid, and several of his famed Creature drawings (photo at the start of this post, to the right, behind the grumpy looking Mr Jon Rosenberg). With a healthy crowd filling the exhibit space, Bell’s first gallery show of 2006 was a rousing success, even as he continues to straddle the line between cartoonist and artist. So is he a cartoonist that arty types find acceptable, or an artist that works with cartoony subjects?

“I guess I’m more of an artist than a cartoonist, since I don’t seem to be able to form any kind of narrative with my cartoons. Do artists make more money than cartoonists? I’ll be an artist, then, but not the starving kind.”

Worthy goals. Check out The Creatures In My Head over the coming weeks, when photographs of all the works (and perhaps even the elusive Y-chromosome) will be available. And if you’re in Brooklyn before April 11th, be sure to consider The Problem With Reproduction.

My geneticist gf was not feeling Bell’s show. It made me want to move to New York. Bravo, sir, and much luck moving your pieces. Tangible as Basquiat.

[…] So I was talking with a guy at the Andy Bell opening because he was wearing a Great Outdoor Fight shirt. “Nice shirt,” I said. “Thanks,” he replied, “What do you think is going to happen next?” […]

Nice profile of the show — thanks for this!

[…] I was talking with a guy at the Andy Bell opening because he was wearing a Great Outdoor Fight shirt. “Nice shirt,” I said. […]

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