“Omul Negru”

Nicodim Gallery | Los Angeles
571 S Anderson Street, Suite 2
August 6, 2016–August 20, 2016

View of “Omul Negru,” 2016. From left: Daniel Albrigo and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Thee Ghost, 2010; Max Hooper Schneider, Pet Food Effigies, 2016.

Something wicked this way walks. The Romanian title of this show (which began in the gallery’s Bucharest counterpart), “Omul Negru,” translates to “man in black,” and curator Aaron Moulton has included over forty works haunted by bogeymen. Donald Trump is an evil lurker for some, to be sure; the Republican presidential candidate readily evokes the kinds of fears in evidence here. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s self-portrait in a clown suit, Pogo the Clown, ca. 1990, hangs not far from the curator’s son Asger Kali Mason Ravnkilde Moulton’s scrawling terror in Six Boogey-Mans, 2016. A Hitler look-alike preens in Alban Muja’s film Germans Are a Bit Scared of Me, 2013; and a Halloween-masked marauder stands and stares, blank and menacing, in John Duncan’s photograph Scare, 1976–2016—this from an artist infamous for recording his alleged copulation with a corpse.

The supernatural, horror flicks, superstition, and the irrational fears that these works all summon fill the gallery with shadowy figures, frightening faces, and bent words. The passionate performance of an amateur goth dance troupe clipped from YouTube by Jon Rafman—Mainsqueeze, 2014—looks heartbreakingly silly, but also brave when juxtaposed with drawings by Damien Echols, who was falsely accused and sentenced to death for murder (since released), mostly because he and his codefendants wore black clothes and listened to strange music. The bogeyman always feels like he’s out there, and the hooded figure from Richard Serra’s lithograph Abu Ghraib, 2004, could easily fit the bill for the monster in the shadows, but we know that the man pictured is a tortured prisoner from the American-run prison in Iraq. When Trump advocates for more torture and the murder of accused terrorists’ families, it’s not hard to see that the monster this prisoner faces is us.

— Andrew Berardini