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Front Room: Nathaniel Mellors & Jimmy Joe Roche opens at the Baltimore Museum of Art
Jimmy Joe Roche. Still from Peacing Out. 2011. Courtesy of Jimmy Joe Roche and RARE Gallery, New York. © 2013 Jimmy Joe Roche.

BALTIMORE, MD.- The Baltimore Museum of Art presents an exhibition of edgy, irreverent, and absurdist works by two artists exploring human behavior when social norms are stripped away. On view July 3 – September 29, 2013, Front Room: Nathaniel Mellors & Jimmy Joe Roche includes a selection of videos that deliver high entertainment and provocative revelations about the oddities and malfunctions of 21st-century culture. The videos are complemented by photographs, sculpture, and paintings by the artists that explore similar themes.

British artist Nathaniel Mellors and American artist Jimmy Joe Roche work with a variety of formats usually experienced outside the museum—music videos, YouTube clips, television miniseries, and iPhone footage—to develop memorable portrayals of unconventional characters. Mellors’ Ourhouse (2010- ) videos examine the emotional and physical ways that people play out their societal roles through a cast of misfit characters enacting the decline of an eccentric British family in a PBS miniseries-style format. The BMA presents Episode 1 – “Games” featuring a large man in a white track suit who installs himself in the family’s library and proceeds to eat up their books, literally and symbolically digesting language into pulp. A new work, The Saprophage (2012), was shot entirely on iPhone with three members of the Ourhouse cast in Los Angeles, London, and Greece. The video revisits the idea of social chaos in the form of a be-goggled man in a child’s Angry Birds costume and a strangely regal woman in a tshirt making dire pronouncements about the world. Their exchange is interrupted by the Saprophage, a figure inspired by an unfinished Pier Paolo Pasolini film that followed a contemporary St. Paul character who sought to bring spiritual values to America. In Mellors’ version, the Saprophage’s ability to feed on decaying matter offers a possible salvation to a cultural cluttered by excess and waste. A self-parodying companion piece, Before and After the Saphrophage (2012), will also be shown.

Roche transforms himself into an astonishing range of fringe figures using costumes, bodily contortions, and uninhibited movement. These strange but recognizable characters are echoes of outcasts scrutinized by the mass media, and can also be seen as repressed aggressive aspects of our own personalities. In his video Peacing Out (2010), Roche embodies a man with a clown-like grin slowly winding his way to inebriated collapse. The artificial pyrotechnics that burst above his head evoke a sporting event or outdoor festival where celebration is mixed with overindulgence and displays of base behavior. The potential for a shift from the safe to the unsavory lurks even closer to the surface in Beam Splitter, 2011. Warping effects, Roche’s hunched body, and a long, unkempt dark wig obscure humanizing details of a menacing subject who is holding an object like a guitar but spiked with nails that seem more like a weapon than an instrument. The exhibition will also feature a new work, Great Alaskan Meta Dripper (2013), a hand-cut sculpture with intricate layers of color and interwoven passages that mirror each other like a Rorschach test.

Nathaniel Mellors (British, born 1974) is an artist based in Amsterdam and Los Angeles. Mellors also plays bass guitar in the group Advanced Sportswear and is a co-founder of Junior Aspirin Records, a not-for-profit record label releasing music by artists in limited editions. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the South London Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. His group shows include exhibitions at the Tate Britain and in the Venice Biennale in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, Mellors was commissioned by the BBC to make a short work of art to introduce the final episode of the cultural history series The Seven Ages of Britain. He is the 2011 recipient of the Cobra Art Prize, which is awarded to an artist living in the Netherlands who produces innovative work that attests to engagement and experiment. Mellors studied at the Ruskin School, Oxford University (1996-99), the Royal College of Art, London (1999-2001), and the Rijksakademie, Amsterdam (2007-09).

Jimmy Joe Roche (American, born 1981) is a visual artist residing in Baltimore, Maryland. His videos have screened internationally in venues including the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art, J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, Incubate Arts festival in The Netherlands, and at Rojo@Nova 2010 in Brazil. Roche has had two solo exhibitions at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Colorado and his work was included the 2011 group show Shame the Devil at The Kitchen in New York City. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Beautiful Decay; The New Museum's Younger Than Jesus artist directory; 100, a book by Francesca Gavin published in 2011, and in a feature article in the November 2011 issue of the Spanish art magazine BELIO. Roche is a recipient of the 2012 new work residency at \\ Harvestworks // in New York City and a member of the Baltimore arts collective Wham City. Roche is a graduate of the State University of New York-Purchase and the Maryland Institute College of Art

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