Like an ominous circus clown, Patrick Lundeen's work rides the line between the lighthearted and the psychologically dark. Following in the traditions of craft and the carnivalesque, the Canadian artist’s paintings and installations are colorful in every sense of the word, but behind the decorative surface he projects something akin to the inner world of a conflicted inner child, notes from the suppressed unconscious. One might have left his recent solo exhibition at Mike Weiss gallery either laughing or a bit creeped out. Such is the effect of Lundeen’s work.
Humans can differentiate emotion in the slightest variation in facial expression, and Lundeen’s masks exhibit emotion in the extreme: fear, anger, depression, and exhilaration. However, one cannot connect to these masks on a human level. With empty space where their eyes should be, they exhibit an otherworldliness; this is further reinforced by the other works in the exhibition. Faces can be found not only in the constructed masks, but also on weavings and found rugs, and in constructions of fringe, blinking LED signs, and found animal masks. On a television perched atop an amplifier pedestal, the face of a genie announces his presence. A series of smaller framed (hence, un-wearable) masks are fashioned from Mad magazine “fold-ins,” the magazine’s signature page which the reader must fold in on itself to uncover an illustrated punch line to a joke. Lundeen's manipulation of Mad magazine imagery, iconic for its prankster target audience, exacerbates the feeling of potential malevolence that vibrates throughout the exhibition.
Patrick Lundeen, Beer Face, 2012, Mixed media, toilet seat, beads, led signs, fringe, embroidery rings and spray paint 75 x 40 in.; Courtesy of Mike Weiss Gallery.
There is also a playfulness in the personification of the inanimate in Lundeen’s work—he is literally creating expression through the arrangement of objects. His dedication to this task seems apparent in the labor-intensive nature of his ornamentation techniques, namely, the intricately painted designs that adorn the masks. The artist’s commitment to creating emotive expression is also apparent in his inclusion of records by his experimental rock band. The folk-electronic synthesis provides a befitting accompaniment to the artist’s physical work. Overall, Lundeen’s work leaves an impression of either emotional turmoil or harmonious chaos lying just beyond our conscious reach.
Formerly Brooklyn based, Lundeen has recently relocated to his native Montreal. He should be an important addition to the Montreal scene, and with representation at Mike Weiss in New York and Wetterling Gallery in Stockholm, we can surely expect to see more from him in New York and abroad.
(Image on top: Patrick Lundeen, Installation view; Courtesy of Mike Weiss gallery)