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In his fourth solo show, Klemens Gasser "feathers" the subjects of sex, life and death
Klemens Gasser, Red-headed Woodpecker 3 Days Before His Death, 2013.

By: John Reed

NEW YORK, NY.- Following upon the raw, blank canvases of his earlier shows, Gasser has returned to the natural, unprimed surface. This time, however, Gasser has found a medium. His marks are made by hand in pourable skin latex, sourced from NYC porn shops. The latex, first in black only, and then in the additional colors of red, pink and orange, is smeared upon the surface of the stretched, mounted canvas. The drippy result, mixed with tissue paper, is then torn and peeled from the untreated cotton canvas, producing a "feathering" result. The sloughing of porn latex not only suggests a sexual deflation—post-coital exhaustion and apathy—but the reverse effect of the muslin enshrouded corpse. Death/life is not made neat, not made "organic" (all cotton), it is, conversely, made the vehicle for a totally toxic expression of selfish desire.

Gasser's four canvases are hung opposite a series of eight "birding" photographs. The wildlife photos, which adhere only somewhat to the conservative aesthetics of that oeuvre, were taken during an every-morning safari of Brooklyn parks. The star of the show: a juvenile Red-Headed woodpecker, happens to perfectly match the color scheme of Gasser's painting. He is, alas, ill-starred, and in the series "Red-headed Woodpecker 3 days before his Death," Gasser immortalizes his subject as if in all the painful iterations of living: awkward teen, old age, glorious aliveness (reverse wood pecking), berry picking, and flight. As if in echo of the life cycle, two of the photographs are taken by Gasser's children.

The behind-the-canvas text of Gasser's previous show graces the back of only one of the "Rip Paintings." The text, the artifice of notness, has receded as if by half-conscious omission into distant memory, that of childhood or parenthood lost. To quote the one sequence of prose: " … oh I forgot the hunting the deer the beloved father the nailed to the cross deer on the hut. He cut the fur + skin below the hooves, plus a vertical Newman cut, Fontana cut, men can go horizontal only if the photograph an ocean horizon, the animals love a vertical slice a butcher samurai lift and slice down so did he then he pulled the skin downwards revealing the beautiful pattern of flesh and other things on it—fatty veiny—the deer reminded me of skinned rabbits I seen before at least in reproduction—photographic reproduction—not internet at that time no endless worldconnecting sales catalogues then—selling is another of their qualities—men like to sell and to chat and to sell they live to sell they come after production they are worse than finance they sell, chat and break and then they get drunk and drugged and chat some more and sell again and chat and sell they never produce they are secondary and we let them blow up their boasting secondary istrionism and raise their manly kids to their boasting blown up ridiculosity chatting again and selling and financing it, their boasting Irish Night. …"

Parenthood, childhood, porn shops, fetishes, conservative aesthetics, pop aesthetics—wherever Gasser goes, he finds his subjects. The concurrence of themes is so parallel that the question is not so much of intentionality but inevitability. The subjective experience necessarily reconfigures its own perspective in art. The semiotic history of the Red-Headed woodpecker, for example, yields more evidence of Gasser's subject matter: a war symbol of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome and the Cherokee Indians; Woody Woodpecker, the obnoxious American id; a Christian killer of serpents, i.e., Satan; an incarnation of Buddha (the final piece in Gasser's show is an installation of his own meditation cushion, which is not be sat one by viewers). In the case of our own woodpecker, the reality is more profoundly felt than any metaphorical value. Our fellow, as he squabbled with a neighbor, was swept away by a hawk, and carried off to his certain end.

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