Critics’ Picks

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, lucky lovers, 2020, acrylic paint, spray paint, oil slick, and glitter on canvas, 72 x 60".

Jonathan Lyndon Chase, lucky lovers, 2020, acrylic paint, spray paint, oil slick, and glitter on canvas, 72 x 60".

New York

Jonathan Lyndon Chase

Baby Company
73 Allen Street Suite 303
September 9–November 21, 2020

The viral ascendance of Atlanta rapper Lil Nas X’s SoundCloud-born breakout “Old Town Road,” a hip-hop production dyed with Western clichés, rode a resurgent fascination with rodeo aesthetics that permeated pop culture. Largely propelled by Black musicians such as Solange and Megan Thee Stallion, the “yeehaw agenda” (a phrase coined on Twitter in 2018 by the content creator Bri Malandro) stirred a media-wide discourse about the conservative, racialized gatekeeping of country culture that controversially resulted in the removal of Nas X’s hit from Billboard’s genre-specific chart. In a new installation of paintings, video, sculpture, and sound, the Philadelphia-based artist Jonathan Lyndon Chase continues that discussion by dissecting and democratizing one particularly fraught icon of Americana: the cowboy.

Cum in (all works cited, 2020), a sculpture featuring a pair of shuttered saloon doors with the words “slow dancing” offset in slimy white cursive, welcomes visitors to the space. Paintings and neon hangings are arranged in a haphazard salon style and create the feeling that one’s happened upon a roadside bar—or perhaps a homosocial space for cruising. To that end, the canvas lucky lovers finds two men—one of whom wears a tall, square Stetson—rendered in a haze of thick pink strokes and entwined in a suffocating embrace. Its surface is marked by red, ovular drips: Are they gaping assholes? Open wounds? These forms spill over into another painting, the eye-catching Black Knight, in which a rider, seemingly fused to his stallion, is posed against an urban backdrop. The barrier between man and mount is nearly indistinguishable.

Chase’s paintings are projections of personal fantasies onto historical ones. The cowboy is a symbol of masculinity, white and heterosexual, and his image often negates the stories of Black cattlemen who shaped the frontier. (By the end of the American Civil War in 1865, a third of cowboys were vaqueros, and roughly a quarter were Black.) Coupled with autobiographical works, including Babble, an installation featuring a chapel door with looped jabber that emanates from beneath it—a meditation on religion and queer shame—Chase seems to suggest that, at the heart of this reverie, there is something undeniably real.