WEEKEND is pleased to present Phenomenal Specimens, an exhibition of macabre and surreal paintings and works on paper by artist Scott Greenwalt.
Our daily lives are made up of choices resulting from the stimuli that effect us, our habits of the day-to-day, waking up in the morning, having our coffee, going to work, our social engagements. The actions and choices we make appear to have a certain measure of freedom. All the while our hearts pump, oxygen converts to carbon dioxide, leukocytes defend us against disease. All elements work in allied operations, our bodies engaged in the processes of survival. But human life is also permeated by a kind of action not evident in our day to day, one in which there is no freedom, that is, the inevitable deconstruction of what was once whole, an entropic drive toward the end of all physical process, the thing that defines life and is its opposite.
In an effort to escape this drive toward death, alchemists labored to achieve freedom from the laws of the temporal world via the philosopher's stone and the elixir of life. Their protoscience was imbued with the esoteric, giving the material world a psychic presence to make a sense of the energies that were often sensed but not seen.
For his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles, Scott Greenwalt presents images that illustrate with an uncanny precision the palpable horror of our physical situation. And like the alchemists of old, he instills in the work an element of the mysterious, a fantastical imagining of our souls and bodies transformed in matter and energy.
The result is landscapes and portraits populated and magnetized by cloudy æther, sinewy, degraded and corporeal fragile forms, fine filaments of hair and flesh transmutated by rays of energy streaming from eyes and orifices. The work captures a moment of profound fantastical physical change and refer to a thing larger than that what we can see with our own eyes, a nightmarish dimension of the alchemist's gaze made manifest in all its magnificent terror.
But Marinus Bicknell Willett was sorry that he looked again; for surgeon and veteran of the dissecting-room though he was, he has not been the same since. It is hard to explain just how a single sight of a tangible object with measurable dimensions could so shake and change a man; and we may only say that there is about certain outlines and entities a power of symbolism and suggestion which acts frightfully on a sensitive thinker's perspective and whispers terrible hints of obscure cosmic relationships and unnameable realities behind the protective illusions of common vision. In that second look Willett saw such an outline or entity, for during the next few instants he was undoubtedly as stark raving mad as any inmate of Dr. Waite's private hospital. He dropped the electric torch from a hand drained of muscular power or nervous coördination, nor heeded the sound of crunching teeth which told of its fate at the bottom of the pit. He screamed and screamed and screamed in a voice whose falsetto panic no acquaintance of his would ever have recognised; and though he could not rise to his feet he crawled and rolled desperately away from the damp pavement where dozens of Tartarean wells poured forth their exhausted whining and yelping to answer his own insane cries. He tore his hands on the rough, loose stones, and many times bruised his head against the frequent pillars, but still he kept on. Then at last he slowly came to himself in the utter blackness and stench, and stopped his ears against the droning wail into which the burst of yelping had subsided. He was drenched with perspiration and without means of producing a light; stricken and unnerved in the abysmal blackness and horror, and crushed with a memory he never could efface. Beneath him dozens of those things still lived, and from one of those shafts the cover was removed. He knew that what he had seen could never climb up the slippery walls, yet shuddered at the thought that some obscure foot-hold might exist.
- From The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, H.P. Lovecraft, 1927
Scott Harrison Greenwalt was born in St. Louis, Missouri 1974, and relocated to Oakland, California in 1997. He is currently operating from within the bowels of a former casket factory on a particularly strange block in west Oakland. His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, WA; Reno, NV; Kansas City, MO and Charleston, SC.
Specially appearing opening night: Barfth, a cave slut trio from LA, will attempt to harness the power of your bodily fluids and enslave your face.