Rome

View of “Peter Linde Busk,” 2015. From left: Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at, 2014; No light, but rather darkness visible, 2015; Fear the Goat from the Front, the Horse from the Rear and Man from All Sides, 2014.

View of “Peter Linde Busk,” 2015. From left: Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at, 2014; No light, but rather darkness visible, 2015; Fear the Goat from the Front, the Horse from the Rear and Man from All Sides, 2014.

Peter Linde Busk

Monitor | Rome

View of “Peter Linde Busk,” 2015. From left: Life’s barely long enough to get good at one thing. So be careful what you get good at, 2014; No light, but rather darkness visible, 2015; Fear the Goat from the Front, the Horse from the Rear and Man from All Sides, 2014.

The titles of the works in “Gentlemen,” Peter Linde Busk’s second solo exhibition at Monitor, cast a gothic shadow. The artist snipped adages and fragments of prose from sources ranging from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the script of True Detective; these (often prolix) lines together wove a narrative of desire and shame that augmented the grisly figuration in the paintings, ceramics, lithographs, and etchings that were on view. The works themselves conjure the visual vocabularies of a slew of art-historical movements well versed in extremity—from Die Brücke and Surrealism to art brut—evincing the artist’s penchant for exploring the fine line between illegible chaos and precarious order.

Among the exhibited works were four large-scale paintings—acrylic, crayon, and pastel on linen—picturing groups of gnarled human bodies clumsily fondling one another. Rendered naively with harried marks, scratched lines, and uneven washes of color, the figures occupy moody abstract spaces that at once evoke a back alley and the womb. The title of one, Oh how unlike the place from whence they fell!, 2015, drawn from Milton’s Paradise Lost, almost makes this reading explicit.

Three paintings on copper (You Look like a Perfect Fit, Homeward Bound, and You Were Always on My Mind, all 2014) feature psychologically charged portraits of imaginary beings so outlandish that even Borges couldn’t have dreamed them up. Their exaggerated features (dripping snouts and gaping eyes), which emerge from a frenzy of dense patterns, recall Max Ernst’s hallucinatory images. Homeward Bound, in fact, seems directly indebted to the Surrealist’s print La Brebis galante (The Gallant Sheep), 1949, with undulations of hatch marks and serpentine gestures enveloping an ambiguous beast. In another sequence of portraits, four inky black aquatint and drypoint etchings from 2013, the compositions are modulated to match their titles: I Shall Reign, I Am Reigning, I Have Reigned, I Am Without a Kingdom. The vigorous forms that begin this narrative become placid and solid, then hardened and concentrated, before dissolving into weepy and wispy scribbles.

The titles of four ceramic reliefs (all 2015) are drawn from Shelley: But my enthusiasm was checked by my anxiety, and I appeared rather like one doomed by slavery to toil in the mines, or any other unwholesome trade, than an artist occupied by his favourite employment, for example, might lend some insight into the artist’s relationship with his craft. And indeed, these works, like the others on view here, seem to be the result of enthusiastic, if unbridled, production reined in by anxiety. Each relief in this series features a Frankensteinian, skull-like object pinched and cobbled from clay and glazed bone white. These brutalized forms each sit on a neat ovoid ground of rich veneer, like prized relics, or taxidermied busts. The same ashen glaze appeared on three large sculptures, each composed of a ceramic figure perched on a modified butcher’s block. A cautionary Assyrian proverb supplies the title for one prickly-looking figure, Fear the Goat from the Front, the Horse from the Rear and Man from All Sides, 2014, which was situated across the room from another, this one buxom and inviting (Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin, 2014). Together, these works offer something of the repressed dialectic of inhibition and abandon that any true gentleman must continuously navigate.

Pier Paolo Pancotto

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.