New York

Rasmus Myrup, His Sperm, Angiosperm (Maple), 2019, soft pastel and conté crayon on paper, custom frame, 41 × 29”. From the series “His Sperm, Angiosperm,” 2018–19.

Rasmus Myrup, His Sperm, Angiosperm (Maple), 2019, soft pastel and conté crayon on paper, custom frame, 41 × 29”. From the series “His Sperm, Angiosperm,” 2018–19.

Rasmus Myrup

Jack Barrett

In Rasmus Myrup’s exhibition “Re-member me,” denuded saplings were installed at the center of the gallery, while others were arranged and fastened to the walls by short lengths of metal. Each tree was adorned with brittle, pressed leaves from a different perennial—beech, maple, rowan—attached to its limbs with adhesive, or dangling from copper wire, as if they were decorations for a mildly festive holiday. One hybrid featured both green and brown leaves, confounding seasonal logic; another bore square-cut bracts. The skeletal copse and its sparse foliage were not dense enough to transform the space into a forest; rather, against the gallery’s clinical whiteness, the effect was of a botanical laboratory or antiseptic seed bank, in which the trees were anomalous captives to Myrup’s corruptive silviculture.

Six pastel drawings on paper could be seen behind or next to the wan screens. Three of them depicted naked men just after orgasm, their faces cropped. The series, titled “His Sperm, Angiosperm,” 2018–19 (all works cited, 2019), could have been written off as banal homoeroticism possessed of neither charge nor remarkable technical prowess. (Their blue grounds—shabby renderings of a bedspread—were particularly unconvincing.) However, the sinewed torque of straining bodies smartly reflected the artist’s twisting, agonized branches: His replacement of ejaculate with samaras and other kinds of seedpods—either sprayed across a set of tight abs or sprinkled upon a smooth, prostrate back—evoked ideas about genetic design and thwarted procreation. This was particularly effective and amusing in one picture, wherein a trail of dandelion seeds gently drift away from a climaxing dick. (To see this drawing, one walked beneath a stiff arch, formed by two rows of bony twigs hung with Lunaria biennis seeds. The seedpods of these plants are known in the US as silver dollars, and in the artist’s native Denmark as coins of Judas.) By highlighting the traditionally perceived impotence of gay males in terms of propagation and the biblical “evil” of onanism, Myrup noted historical disdain for the perceived wastage of homosexual pleasure. His mutated trees draw parallels to conversion therapy—vicious attempts to change nature according to poisonous notions regarding what’s natural.

Three other drawings were of various Scandinavian woodlands, as if the artist were trying to expand the view beyond the gallery. Titled Orgy, these works—each one appended with parenthesized location and the time of day captured—brim with sun-dappled, fertile verdancy. Orgy (Kibæk, Evening) exerted an especially sharp allure, with its low perspective and fading luminescence, as the gloaming encroached—day to night, life to death. The Orgy pictures stood in stark contrast to the installation of cadaverous trees, fixed in place as barren, mechanical subjects of Myrup’s violent experimentations.

The transformation of organic artifacts into zombified set pieces and men into plantlike germinators recalls the science-fiction movies The Day of the Triffids (1962) and Little Shop of Horrors (1986 version). The work underscored our animal and chemical compulsions to survive, Myrup’s geysers of seedy cum acknowledging that there is pleasure to be derived along the way.