New York

Cary Leibowitz / Candyass

57 STUX + Haller Gallery

An extraordinarily well-versed (and well-dressed) young man enters from stage right and approaches the lectern with several slides, a carousel, and a pointer. He taps one of his platform heels impatiently as he waits for the houselights to dim and his voice to rise above the impending darkness in order to say, “Consider the term ‘love’ (with a proper stranger?) as a condition which breeds pathological self-knowledge or self-interest. Like fungus or bile, it interweaves, interlocks, whatever, within someone else’s pathology. This is just one more construct unworthy of our holy soul; we are compelled to replace it with sickness in the brain and with hate, which is our love.

“In knowing this, the dandy denied himself, and hence others, so commonplace an experience as that hate which is our love. He opted for the condition best described as failure of the imagination—irony, disbelief, and nothing beyond it.

“How, then, to say to you that Cary Leibowitz, a.k.a. Candyass, while adopting the role of the dandy, still hopes as he disbelieves, and that his hope is based on a desire to disbelieve no longer, even as he is forced to do so by people for whom he prints cards that say, ‘Please don’t be mean to me,’ or, as if it were a statement of purpose, ‘Homo’? And how to say to you, too, that Leibowitz abandons the slightly outmoded concept of intentionality in favor of the pyrotechnics of a color sense verging, we may safely say, on the goofy?

“In Leibowitz’s universe, ‘Candyass’ becomes yet another means of deflecting criticism, since he is the one to be rejected, who can take it. The small boxlike paintings in colors such as electric pink and mint green, and so on, are, for the artist, the colors of a passion not known through personal experience per se. Leibowitz-as-dandy does not exist within the realm of shared experience. He becomes that thing known as a fan, as evidenced in the ‘I Love’ series, 1989, which includes such works as I Love Sherrie Levine, and I Love Tom of Finland. The self that experiences extreme deprivation through romantic failure or through the anxiety of influence or whatever exists within the real in a different way; there is, for him, no shield against the real except, perhaps, humor. This Leibowitz also knows, seen time and again in the long, oval-shaped paintings depicting baskets of fruit, whose texts read ‘Misery Loves Company’ and ‘Happy Birthday Loser.’ The fact that these images appeared as part of the ‘I Love’ series indicates several things, but the most amusing to consider is that Leibowitz is the ideological ‘bottom’ to Candyass’ ‘top,’ the butch to his femme. This split is seen time and again in the pennants that read (and are titled) ‘Go Fags!’ and ‘Homo State’ (both 1989). The pennants are the necessary visual signs of what, for Leibowitz, is a state of perpetual unresolve: no real home, no state unaffected by Helms, and no fag to love.”

Hilton Als