Juxtapoz (USA): January 2010

Showstopper

Terry Rodgers

by Evan Pricco

Never in a million years could you have guessed that Terry Rodgers lives in Ohio. Represented by Torch Gallery in Amsterdam, showing currently at Torch’s sister gallery, Aeroplastics, in Brussels, plus numerous solo and group exhibitions across Europe are some of the early indicators that make you think “European contemporary artist.” Of course, there’s graphic intensity in the subject matter. Rodgers creates in paint the spectrum of new money, gone terrible and out of control, careening towards extreme, with debaucherous scenes featuring upper-class blasé about sex, drugs, and politics. The powerful and the powerless, exercising their demons for different reasons, unite in one canvas. It’s dirty and desperate, haunted by the truth. All this together, and you would assume Mr. Rodgers lives near a brothel on Monnikenstraat.

The fact that European audiences and galleries have been most enthusiastic about the American Rodgers formed the basis of my questions. The simplest being, why? “The difference between the European audience and the American audience is that overall the Europeans are a little more comfortable looking at difficult subjects—who we are, what we struggle with,” Rodgers says. “After all, they have experienced a lot more difficulties on their soil and have had to come to terms with the horrors. We still largely live in an isolated fairyland and are subjected to amazing religious-based fantasies.” And then, perhaps with a little sarcasm and comedic effect, he continues, “The European collectors aren’t put off by hanging nude works in their homes. They seem to realize that everyone has a body.”

No question, boundaries are crossed in the paintings that could make the average collector or viewer uncomfortable. Nudity shocks, but nudity mixed with depiction of overdose and nonchalance about chemical limitations can overwhelm. Even more effecting is the loneliness which imbues every young man and woman in each painting. Hollow shells reality, they don’t notice each other, their surroundings, or even the actions and state of their own bodies. That might scare away the typical art enthusiast. “My work is an exploration of our modes of thinking and the languages that form the boundaries of our thoughts...and exploring notions of utopia and the world of dream-fictions.”

On display at Aeroplastics will be utopian canvases nearing 11 feet, making the concept of dream fictions feel like a movie screen left on pause. Maybe that is why the work can be exhilarating and overpowering a once, the sheer size of Rodgers’ pieces deeming them impossible to ignore. As they force self confrontation with each character, you’re forced to consider yourself in each character and your stance inn a world of self-adulation and false idols. “I can say that a real source for the work is noticing our ever-present vulnerability. We do so much to disguise it, and yet, it is always evident.”


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