In an attempt to rejuvenate his studio practice, and break down the barriers between teaching and art making, Keith Boadwee asked two former students, Isaac Gray and Erin Allen, to collaborate. The body of work that emerged is a no-holds-barred, Germanic-inspired orgy of expressionistic figure paintings that takes low humor and bad taste so far they come around again as refinement.
Boadwee emerged in the 1990s as a sexual pioneer with large-scale photographic self-portraits. His genitalia either dominate the images or, in the enema-inspired paintings, actually manufacture them. His influence now is being felt on a generation of students both at the San Francisco Art Institute and the California College of Art, where he has been teaching for the last 6 years.
If this were Ancient Greece Boadwee would probably be up on charges like Socrates for corrupting the youth. In the England of Alan Bennet's History Boys, the assumption implicit in Boadwee's teaching of an erotic component in the transmission of knowledge would have gotten him replaced by someone more utilitarian. But this is San Francisco 2010, where artists like Boadwee emerged from the culture wars victorious and in positions of influence. Now the energy is flowing the other way, with Gray and Allen refreshing Boadwee's aesthetic.While these new collaborations exude Boadwee's classic mix of penis humor and serious culture, the group forged their own ridiculous pictorial language and self-aware sense of abjectification. The fearless, sloshy surfaces can be traced back to Gray's abstractions although in the hands of the group the paint is even gloppier and the compositions looser and more free. While Allen's smooth, gothic, hands-off portrait style seems to have been totally suborned for this project, the attention to composition and art history might very well come from there. The paintings draw on people like Matisse, Otto Muhel, Martin Kippenberger and Jorge Immendorf, and feature bongs, cheese, Gumby dolls and flowers among other recurring images.
Gray studied painting at the University of Oklahoma and will complete his MFA at CCA in the spring. He has exhibited in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Oklahoma City. Allen got his MFA from CCA and shows at Maniac Gallery in Los Angeles. He also performs locally and tours nationally with the bands Child Pornography, High Castle, Sister Fucker and Work.