David Brody

Gallery Naga

David Brody’s fantastic narrative paintings explore the dualities of sexuality and power through images that provide a stunning visual punch. The boldness of style, Freudian themes, and brash technique in these hotly colored works reveal a self-awareness and confidence that is extremely refreshing. Brody begins by painting figures on wood panels, employing a stylistic spectrum spanning primitive through cartoon style. He then adds panels or dissects the wood ground, as the narratives intuitively unfold. Brody embraces fetishism by hammering nails directly through the panels, leaving their sharp edges exposed. The multilayered wood building blocks, which have been variously ground and shaped, offer a rustic dimension to Brody’s highly personal, erotic images. Echoes of the Hairy Who, Jonathan Borofsky, and Rodney Alan Greenblat are here combined with shades of Breugel and Henri Rousseau.

Untitied, 1988, is by far the most heroic work in this exhibition, both in scale and complexity. This 17-panel painting presents a hierarchical dream sequence based on Brody’s childhood fantasies of male chivalry. The visual narrative unfolds as a Boschian fish tale, accompanied by a larger-than-life self-portrait of the artist holding a palette. He gazes at his own surrealistic seascape depicting various images of men offering gifts of fish to women. The canvas contains a spiraling array of lushly painted nude male figures diving, holding poles, and spearing fish for anxious attendant females. This small painting within a painting also serves as a canvas on the wall of a surreal restaurant in which two immense creatures with human bodies and fish-heads sit at a dinner table, munching on tiny nude humans. A marlin-headed monster, dressed in a conservative blue suit, sticks his knife through the back of a tiny female nude in his plate. He jabbers with his female companion, an ample-breasted monster with an eellike head, who busies herself poking at the miniature penis of the person in her dish. Two other nudes, placed like lobster claws in a bowl on a checkered tablecloth, await consumption; the diners casually drink wine, attended by a fish-headed waiter. Here Brody, in a manner reminiscent of Robert Crumb’s hilariously sadistic Funny Animal comics, offers up an ironic twist to the rituals of consumption, sexuality, and death.

In Untitied, 1989, another colorful self-portrait of the artist and his fantasies, Brody fabricates a second fish tale. The artist again appears with palette and paintbrush. Here, a malevolent fish with a smug grin emanates from his brush. Balancing on his back is a rubbery, clown-idiot man who stretches to rescue an elongated nude. She balances upside-down on a thin, red slide, heading toward rough blue waters. The disproportions of scale and, especially, style, ranging from Gustonlike caricature to faux African primitivism combine to create an energetic and highly charged surface. Freudian symbolism abounds. Erect phalluses are everywhere, usually disguised as snakes, fish, dogs’ tails, baseball bats, or submarines. Brody’s absurdist archetypal nighttime fantasies are rendered with a bravura that is both compelling and hypnotic.

Francine A. Koslow