Critics’ Picks

Richard Hawkins, Turd Plug to Prevent Nocturnal Insemination, 2016, glazed ceramic in artist’s frame, 23 x 26 x 3 1/2''.

Richard Hawkins, Turd Plug to Prevent Nocturnal Insemination, 2016, glazed ceramic in artist’s frame, 23 x 26 x 3 1/2''.

New York

Richard Hawkins

Greene Naftali Gallery
508 West 26th Street Ground Floor
September 9–October 22, 2016

The free downloadable PDF is the contemporary form most suited to the manic conspiracy theorist. Appropriately, a number of them make up the offsite key to “Norogachi: Ceramics After Artaud,” Richard Hawkins’s show of impressively hideous works—glazed tablets that incorporate disturbing, scatological vignettes of a hellish metaphysical realm. The artworks—a speculative merging of Antonin Artaud’s paranoid lexicon of psychic attack with the symbolic imagery of the Tarahumara, an indigenous people of northwestern Mexico—are based on Artaud’s 1936 trip to Norogachi, a remote village in the Sierra Madre, while he was withdrawing from heroin. Artaud’s neocolonial romance with ceremonial psychedelics there became the subject for subsequent writings and—Hawkins proposes—a powerful influence on the drawings Artaud executed during the same period, in a psychiatric hospital.

Turd Plug to Prevent Nocturnal Insemination (all works 2016) presents what looks like a small blood-spattered length of striated shit on a pale ragged rectangle affixed to a pleasant enough background of interlocking multicolored blobs. Shamanic Abortion of the Divine Parasite After Being Raped by the Holy Spirit is rough and childlike yet also a clear, even didactic depiction of the titular scenario. Those familiar with Artaud’s visual invectives will recognize the signature themes of his works on paper. But Hawkins makes Artaudian strangeness even stranger—by inscribing the dramatist’s visions in clay, he unmoors them from their place in time. And while his arresting ceramic pieces are often comically revolting, they maintain an aura of surprising gravitas. Without delving too far into the artist’s hovering digital text-pastiche, one gleans that Hawkins’s scholarship regarding this iconography is deep, detailed, and earnest. His unconcealed desire to be understood is charming; it imbues his ugly art with the excitement of obsessive investigation and a rare sense of vulnerability.