New York

Mark Flood, Billy, 1983, collage, 34 x 22".

Mark Flood, Billy, 1983, collage, 34 x 22".

Mark Flood

Luxembourg & Dayan | New York

Mark Flood, Billy, 1983, collage, 34 x 22".

Mark Flood’s exhibition “The Hateful Years,” curated by Alison Gingeras and surveying work from 1979 to ’89 (though including paintings from 2012), brought a materialist dialectic to lifestyle choices that refuse to distance themselves from decrepitude and degradation. The installation Punk Rock Crash Pad, 1979–86, covered the walls of the gallery’s attic in the black plastic of garbage and body bags; on the floor was a mattress, presumably occupied by a young rocker, a stand-in for the artist, who had been a member of the punk-noise band Culturecide. Flood’s piece replicates the narrative elements of the anti-depressing down-and-out parable, reversing each term and projection. Thesis and antithesis, an anti-antipsychotic.

Flood’s material is history itself, the glamour, sex, and rubbish of culture. His preposterously salacious collages of David Lee Roth (somehow he looks just right with that expanded forehead), Barry Manilow, or Billy Idol give an uncomfortably extended life to Berlin misery-mongers in the vein of Christian Schad and Otto Dix, or, more recently, 1950s British Pop, viz., the Independent Group, prescient collagists such as Eduardo Luigi Paolozzi and, of course, Richard Hamilton (Just what is it that makes todays homes so different, so appealing, 1956, one of the best titles ever, right?). Duran Duran’s headshots are stacked like a photo booth strip, Prince Charles holds a wary toddler with birth defects (Diana’s already cropped out of the picture). Warhol is at the bottom of all this, in the larger sense of “Warhol: the Art, the Theme Park, the Lifestyle, the Religion”: Debbie Harry, Mick Jagger, O. J. Simpson—so many stars, so many scandals, which in Flood’s works recycle back into a kind of authentic realness, a kinship with the drag queens of Warhol’s 1975 series “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

In his writings on the fallacy of usefulness, Georges Bataille describes a world beyond the abstraction of the intellect, where “objects . . . form together with the subject, a sovereign totality.” Flood draws from the emptiness of the things around him—stationery from a job at an oil company, cheap celebrity posters from a video store he once worked at, “muted” recycled soap boxes, pop bottles, stick figures diagrammed into corporate flowcharts or wandering through thrift-store paintings—what Gingeras calls “the abyss of the average.” Like Martin Kippenberger and Mike Kelley, Flood has the seasoned eye of a ragpicker—curiously, or presciently, the figure so often depicted in Baudelaire’s poésie maudite. Seeing a dirty speck in the gutter, he thinks, “I might need that.” He has a way with words too: Imperatives such as EAT HUMAN FLESH, MASTURBATE OFTEN, DRINK BLOOD, FUCK THE ECONOMY, and COMMIT SUICIDE are written upon canvases—text-based works, they also savor of the Pictures era—Flood’s era, too. In his hilariously pornographic collages, the artist taps the barely unconscious consciousness of ’80s self-help preachers, fitness gurus, and health-food nuts. What’s the point of these things? Be successful, live longer and better, enjoy success, be rich. And fuck a lot, or pretend you do, paging through the skin rags, wanking to the now hysterically period VHS porn. Flood’s deft manipulation of these smiling scrotums wins my vote. I want to bring back the hateful years: “For this I have filthy words at my disposal,” writes Bataille, “words that sharpen the feeling I have of touching on the intolerable secret of being.”

David Rimanelli