Critics’ Picks

Gudmundur Thoroddsen, Objects of Shit on a Box, 2012, horse excrement, emulsifiers, Plexiglas, wood, 48 x 16 x 16”.

Gudmundur Thoroddsen, Objects of Shit on a Box, 2012, horse excrement, emulsifiers, Plexiglas, wood, 48 x 16 x 16”.

New York

Gudmundur Thoroddsen

Asya Geisberg Gallery
537B West 23rd Street
January 12–February 18, 2012

Working in a method that strongly evokes an archaeological study, Gudmundur Thoroddsen has made the image––or imagining––of the patriarchal figure the focus of his solo debut in New York. A video, carvings, drawings, and small excrement-based sculptures form a pantheistic vision of “The Father”–– factual, mythical, and hypothetical. The drawings depict dynastic figureheads, desecrated idols, and scenes of men urinating and defecating on one another. Loose, saturated washes conjure a distinct sense of posthumous portraiture; shadowy faces bleed into the paper as if, like the Shroud of Turin, they were rendered as a vestigial trace. But despite a dark tonality to the images, a sense of humor is wrested from Thoroddson’s subjects, which range from Viking kings and Sumerian gods to his own grandfather and an ape (Great Grandfather [Monkey]) (all works cited, 2011).

Several hirsute heads chiseled crudely in wood enact an exaggerated machismo, displaying bushy beards and rough geometric patterning. The literal burning of several of these heads in the video Yes You’re Going to Burn, while unsettling, disrupts the atmosphere of inertia in this reliquary-like installation. Similarly, the objects made from horse excrement break up the monotony of the fathers, even if they seem to be a coda to the show. But if these works are viewed in light of particular literary and artistic traditions—modern German and English Renaissance literature, for example—that employ scatological references or imagery for various rhetorical and poetic purposes, they appear as an essential elaboration. Indeed, titles such as Brotherhood of Man and I’ll Shit on Your Feet if You Piss on My Back emphasize that excretion and other bodily functions are developed in this show as motifs not only of progeny and male potency, but also of primitive social ecology.