Critics’ Picks

Charles Avery, Untitled (Pool, Onomatopoeia Zoo), 2016, pencil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper
84 x 59".

Charles Avery, Untitled (Pool, Onomatopoeia Zoo), 2016, pencil, acrylic, gouache, watercolor, and ink on paper
84 x 59".

London

Charles Avery

Pilar Corrias
54 Eastcastle Street
January 13–February 17, 2017

Charles Avery is an omniscient creator whose world-building is compassed with a healthy sense of humor. He lives in his own land, named Onomatopoeia, and populates it as he damn well pleases, often in a manner reminiscent of a Thomas Struth panorama—were it to be created by a petulant child. The works on display here are the latest installment of his project of twelve years and counting, The Islanders, 2005–.

The island’s zoo is quite a big deal, apparently, and the lavish prospects of its pool, Untitled (Pool, Onomatopoeia Zoo), and piazza, Untitled (Inner Circle, Onomatopoeia Zoo) (all works cited, 2016), are munificently peopled by an assembly of decidedly active islanders—not unlike captive tigers, called in to feed for visitors’ pleasure. Avery’s people are both mesmerizing and revolting. Nearly all of them are endowed with healthy paunches that are not only intensely physical and sexual but also comical and squeezable, like comic-strip characters. Should you tickle and squeeze or avert your eyes from the awkwardness?

Onomatopoeia, that signal feature of comics’ prowess in translating quotidian retinal data into language, is indeed the best possible stand-in for that unrepresentable something, sprouted in a dream from the paroxysms of perceptual stimuli, like phantasmagorical exquisite corpses. As one of the show’s drawings writes out: “THE WORLD IS ALL THAT IS THE CASE.” Onomatopoeia’s denizens are capable of nothing more than a bit of sunny blood sport—see Untitled (Hunting the noumenon)—totally unaware of their own bliss.