Skeleton Autopsy, oil and mixed media on canvas, 40”x 44”, 2012
Munch Gallery is pleased to present ‘Super Powers and Special Abilities’, a solo exhibition by Scooter LaForge. The exhibition will feature new work on canvas, drawing and sculpture.
‘The Elusive Chimera of Happiness’ by Carlo McCormick, October 2012
Among the various pejoratives by which high art casually dismisses what it deems inconsequential, like saying something is pretty, happy is just not one of those words that comes easily into the cultural discourse. In a way that makes the very notion of happiness somewhat subversive in contemporary art, and it is, far above the aspects of terror, loss and morbidity that haunt the paintings of Scooter LaForge, the happy-quotient that makes his work at once so compelling and challenging. Both his modus operandi and his social aesthetics, LaForge will tell you that he makes art to make himself happy and that if any painting can be said to have a function his would be to make others happy. Like any adjective, particularly when applied to fine art, happy is a most relative term. What brings joy to Scooter might just as easily invoke any level of discomfort to others. More to the point however, we must in turn take some measure of the inverse as the raison d’être for these pictures. Happiness, for all the ways it means different things to different people, is ultimately an idealized construct of personal desires and expectations set against the less pleasant realities of being. As a compulsive drive within his studio practice, we are particularly attracted to LaForge’s conception of joy and pleasure precisely because it speaks so profoundly to a greater, more profound sorrow within.
So what makes Scooter LaForge happy? Well, we can say with some degree of certainty it is not the aforementioned banality of a pretty picture. Seductive as his visual landscape may be, rendered in bold eye-candy colors, rife with sensuous forms of provocative allure, ecstatic in its celebration of life, and enliven by a delirious dose of mischievous whimsy, LaForge veers far too close to the grotesque to impersonate our normative notions of beauty, and indeed, for all the light and delight that dances before us in his oeuvre, the euphoria is inevitably articulated by the shadows. I can’t speak for all his fans across the world, but what makes me want to come back to his pictures, to listen over and over again to their riddled and ambiguous narratives, is not so much for what they show and tell us but for the impossible and impossible contradictions they contain. What appears dark – the Halloween ephemera, skeletons and other pictorial momento mori – is most often rather more naïve and innocent. Conversely however, it is the naiveté and innocence that runs rampant through this work that is the most emotionally fraught. Much like the elusive chimera of happiness, childhood along with all its attendant associations of purity, simplicity and the like, is a hypothetical fantasy of adult projections and perverse proportions that functions as collective myth far more than actual experience.
What makes Scooter LaForge’s art so psychologically penetrating and at times even disturbing is that his conjuring of childhood innocence is true only in so far as it is invested in a universe of his own recovered memories. The events he chronicles happened only in so far as they populated the illustrated books of his youth in ways he believed so dearly that he cannot to this day let them go. These paintings are less about what is than what is remembered. They are the mimetic devices that we recite to ourselves like bedtime stories to keep the demons of doubt and fear away. Nostalgias spun like legends, the gift he gives to us isn’t the unattainable past, it is the recollection; the memories we all make us to figure out who we are. As such all the gladness, glee, exhilaration and ebulliance he delivers come from the critical distance of loss. It is a great and precious gift at that.