Critics’ Picks

Geoffrey Chadsey, Portrait (Pink Beak), 2010, watercolor pencil on Mylar, 
36 x 34”.

Geoffrey Chadsey, Portrait (Pink Beak), 2010, watercolor pencil on Mylar, 
36 x 34”.

San Francisco

Geoffrey Chadsey

Electric Works Gallery
130 8th Street
January 3–February 12, 2011

In the startling series of watercolor pencil drawings exhibited in this show, Geoffrey Chadsey depicts characters that embody an uncanny, unbalanced mishmash of malleable flesh and warped psyche. These are figures with questionable fashion sensibilities and rock-star ambitions, who shift between genders, time frames, and, in some instances, species. Made using a rendering technique that echoes the dense curving and parallel lines used in engraved likenesses of presidents on paper money––or, more broadly, a plastic surgeon’s felt-tipped notations on bare pre-op skin––the nearly life-size figures often seem graphically gestural. They look practically charged with electric current, particularly around their nipples.

Many of the works depict pasty white guys whose softness nudges them into third-sex territory, androgyny allowing for vast possibility. Portrait (Pink Beak) (all works 2010) presents a doughy, shirtless figure, with attentively articulated curls, a Na’vi-blue forehead (over-the-counter facial mask is a recurring, multihued motif), and a mildly monstrous attenuated shadow profile.

Works with more explicit evidence of physical gender transformation deepen the appeal of the show. Black Couch presents a nude reclining on a luxuriously lumpy piece of furniture. The body has the head and hairy legs of a frat boy, but it also has the breasts of a woman, and a conspicuous lack of a penis for a crotch-draped hand to cover. An extra arm that seems to dangle to the floor––and the setting is apparently an artist’s studio with sketches blue-taped to the wall––suggests that a single pose is insufficient to capture the gist of self. The same could be said of the stances and gestures that imply masculinity.

Chadsey’s source images seem to be harvested from random Flickr pages or hook-up websites––the imperfect bodies, ordinary furniture, and flat lighting are all the stuff of private worlds made public online. It is with a deft hand and a peculiar vision that the artist manages to construct works imbued with such memorably freakish integrity.