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Larissa Bates, Just Hustle and Muscle


Monya Rowe Gallery
504 West 22nd Street, 2nd Floor, 212-255-5065
September 4 - October 25, 2008
Reception: Thursday, September 4, 6 - 8 PM
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Monya Rowe is very pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Larissa Bates featuring painting, installation and video.

Taking the title, Just Hustle and Muscle, from a wrestling t-shirt bearing the slogan “No Fat on the Mat, Just Hustle and Muscle, Wrestle”, Bates continues her investigation with gender identity and social politics by using the iconic image of a young wrestler to represent both the masculine and feminine characteristics of a male. In Bates’ world – purposely deprived of females – the wrestlers are known as ‘MotherMen’ – - they represent the maternal male figure. Another key character are the ‘Lederhosen Boys’; while they are enamored by the MotherMen, they are unable to control their destructive tendencies and turn to the supernatural to temper their skepticism. Decidedly allegorical, each painting is set against painfully detailed pastoral landscapes that depict the MotherMen and the Lederhosen Boys performing daily activities and rituals, such as; giving birth, sleeping, wrestling or conjuring up a séance. Bates combines the classical sensibility of Nicolas Poussin (1954-1665) and the vivid palette of Persian Miniatures with a contemporary twist.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is an installation of three toddler-sized paper mache Lederhosen Boys performing a séance amidst a landscape comprised of ceramic plant-like forms, barnacles, real sand and abstract plaster compositions. Towering over them is a five-foot tall gold plaster sculpture of a headless MotherMen. At the core of the installation, Bates introduces another character, the ‘Head Honchos’, in a video that juxtaposes a highlight reel of wrestling moves with the persecution of the MotherMen by the Head Honchos – acted out by real people in costumes made by the artist. The sensitive traits of the MotherMen are a threat to the Head Honchos who are the archetype of hyper-masculinity representing war, greed and aggression.

In this exhibition, Bates places a specific focus on rituals and how they may predetermine a state of being. For example, as in hazing and sporting rituals, the MotherMen are also subjected to certain rites of passage; they compete in wrestling matches, but they also give birth and care for their children. In establishing her own ideology, Bates is creating a new set of principled guidelines. The moral outcome, usually predetermined by social mores firmly rooted in place, is challenged and reconfigured. In a sense, a new cultural dialogue surrounding masculinity is being shaped.

Larissa Bates received a BA from Hampshire College, Massachusetts and currently lives and works in New York. This is her third solo exhibition at Monya Rowe. Her work has recently been exhibited in solo exhibitions at Mogadishni, Denmark, Richard Heller, Los Angeles and included in group exhibitions at Bravin Lee, New York and Bendixen, Denmark. Bates’ performance piece featuring a ‘live wrestling match’ is included in a performance series at CRG, New York in the fall.
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