"Gods and Mortals“
May 14 – June 18, 2011
Zsolt Bodoni's new works make no apologies for the reinvestigation of age old subject
matter: most notably the female nude and the equestrian statue. With their roots in
antiquity and re-births throughout art history, it might be imagined that these symbols of
love, beauty and power might have completed their cycles of reincarnation. Not so.
Bodoni turns again to the foundries that have inspired so much of his recent bodies of
work. Venus is reborn again but Mars, so often her companion in Renaissance painting,
is present here too amidst the engines of war: powerful machines, workers and half
finished assemblages. Great, half finished equestrian statues are inspected for approval
and, lest we forget the cost to animals as well as humans in wartime, Bodoni reminds us by
depicting a horse in a gas mask, plodding obediently and precariously along a
makeshift track as a great war ship prepares to embark far below.
Of late, Bodoni has been increasingly interested in the motivations that lead to war.
Casus Belli as the Romans knew it has been prompted by acts of aggression but often
by the destruction, or rumoured destruction of something poignant or symbolic to a
particular people. The bones of saints have been fought and died over. Strange masks
and caskets were created at huge expense to protect and preserve what amounted to
ghastly visions of mummified features yet these were often revered and worshipped, and
in some cases still are, the objects believed to be invested with supernatural powers. In
his recent paintings, Bodoni has also begun to consider the role of signifiers in relation to
human responses. Sometimes it's sufficient for an item of clothing to evoke an emotive
reaction. It might be a pair of boots, or a glove or a uniform; such as the uniform worn by
an infamous general which when discovered by a party of soldiers looking to arrest the
owner, was shot to pieces out of their frustration at his 'getting away'.
Bodoni understands that humans need symbols. He's not judgemental in his depictions,
and he isn't pointing the finger at the modern world as so many are wont to do. The
statuary of the ancient world isn't so very far removed from the mortal gods of today's
celebrity culture. In Bodoni's paintings these heroes and heroines are recycled; caught
either in the moment of rebirth or re-casting. Each time may produce its own icons but,
Bodoni appears to be saying, nothing will last forever. Even as the artist exposes this
cycle of construction and destruction he reminds us that the pursuit of beauty and the act
of investing an object with particular meaning, can result in terrible destruction. Bodoni
doesn't labour the point, he just traces the course. If we make gods out of mortals,
Bodoni seems to be saying: trouble will follow. Lest we need convincing further, a female
nude holds up the grinning skull of a ram. The painting is an allegory of beauty and
death; the one irretrievably linked with the other.
Mihai Nicodim Gallery
3143 South La Cienega Blvd, Unit B,
Los Angeles, CA 90016
Sunday, May 22, 2011
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