Franklin Parrasch Gallery celebrates the first solo exhibition of drawings, paintings, and installations by New York based artist and recent Hunter College MFA graduate, Joseph Ayers.
Ayers’ work centers on the visual and conceptual interrelationship between human consciousness and forces of nature. Objects, naural elements, drawing, painting, and various combinations of each comprise his illusionistic forms in ways that often question the disparities and similarities between his media and his ostensible subjects. His work exploits ways in which culturally formed expectations affect perceptions.
In an essay for the exhibition, Michael Tomeo writes:
If Charles Sanders Pierce and Immanuel Kant were throwing a party, Joseph Ayers would play the role of the drunken uncle who slyly invites himself, and can’t help from turning the conversation into a series of long yet hilariously disarming puns. One can tell from his works that Ayers is an artist who reads a lot of heady material, but his charm lies in the skillful infusion of lowbrow humor into the realm of high concept. Balancing crotch shots with thoughts on the phenomenon of being, Ayers’ work manages to look fresh with every encounter as well as deepen with time.
All joking aside, the knee slapping humor in Ayers’ work gives way to a series of contradictions that evoke both the frivolity and sincerity of existence. Rather than penetrating deep inside these works in search of meaning, one moves laterally across them as no component takes precedence over another. Ruminations on the ideas of recognition and the self are equally paired with cheap sexual references and sincere emotion. An immature one-liner can alternatively be seen as an earnest articulation of awkwardness in desire.
In The Only Difference Between a Dick and a Duck is You and I, a crappy joke is made funnier and more profound as we encounter the image of a life size man/duck wielding an axe that extends straight from his groin into a real stump positioned on the floor in front of the painting. Here, the non-retinal literality of minimalism is evoked with the stump and the functional action performed by the axe. But it is combined with the depiction of a weird creature standing in an illusionistically rendered deep space, making this absurd situation oddly more threatening.
Always aware of painting’s inability to truly create a three-dimensional space, Ayers’ materials are intelligently chosen and subtly applied. Like a perverted whittIer with a master’s degree, Ayers combines base humor and pragmatism with the landscape of Breughel and an existential fragility and introspection reminiscent of Adrian Piper. By layering candid emotion, canny humor, and deft painting techniques on a minimal foundation of specific objects in space, Ayers’ works create a heightened awareness of the sometimes-shaky relationship between physical space and mental existence.