Press Release: Ecchy Homo and Subderma

From Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program

August 10, 2005

For Immediate Release: August 11, 2005 “Ecchy Homo” and “Subderma”

The Minneapolis Institute of Arts September 23 through November 20, 2005

Minneapolis—The Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program presents the work of two Minnesota artists in “Ecchy Homo” and “Subderma.” Opening September 23 at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the dual exhibitions feature new and recent work by artists Chris Mars and James F. Cleary, B.F.A. “Ecchy Homo” presents Cleary’s photomontages, which illustrate the artist’s perception of human depravity. Both artists explore complex philosophies by looking at the dark side of human nature, through very distinct bodies of work. In “Subderma,” Mars explores issues surrounding mental illness in a series of expressive and fantastical paintings.

I believe that my purpose as an artist is to illustrate the “end times” in which we now live, to reveal our stupidity and arrogance, and thereby lead people back to God. James F. Cleary, B.F.A.

For “Ecchy Homo,” Cleary presents a series of photomontages produced between 1992 and 2005. Through seemingly violent arrangements of text, drawing, and fragments from printed media, Cleary creates crude images about the shadow side of humans. He delivers even the darkest themes with humor, mocking evil and death, in works reminiscent of artists such as Otto Dix, Ed Kienholz, and Francis Bacon. For example, in Stoned-Age Man (2002) Cleary critiques drug abuse and its impact on human evolution. At the deepest level, Cleary believes that humans lack the moral fortitude to act responsibly with developments in science and technology. For him, monsters are born when humans become corrupt through their lust for power.

Cleary, who has a fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, developed his signature style toward the end of his formal art training. His work incorporates printed fragments with gestural figure drawings. The assemblages point to the anti-aesthetic Dada and Surrealism practiced by artists such as George Grosz, John Heartfield, and Max Ernst. Cleary’s strange creatures merge the fragments and drawing into a collage with such precision that it difficult to discern where the paper fragments end and the drawing begins. Cleary’s primary influences include science, medicine, “B” horror movies, MAD magazine, and punk music.

All art is political in some sense, be it through conformity, reflection, propaganda, or rebellion. My paintings are rallies and trials, photographs of a moment when truth was made public, and mercy known. Chris Mars

Since 2000, Mars has produced a stunning series of strangely timeless images. Many of the characters featured in “Subderma” look straight into the viewer’s eyes as if to say that beauty is not a surface question, but a matter of the heart. To Mars, we are all human beings, even those who are often considered outcasts such as the mentally ill, addicts, and convicts. Mars presents a visual world filled with perpetrators and victims where one must seek the truth of one’s humanity. In A Cleansing at Blue Bay (2004), for example, Mars considers the nature of forgiveness and redemption. His paintings often suggest that the dark side of humanity—as seen through separation and demonization—is a breeding ground for “monsters” on a global level.

Foregoing any formal instruction, Mars has developed a personal and original style of painting, melding many layers of oil paint and varnish to achieve lush surfaces of remarkable richness and depth. His palette is somber and earthy, adding drama to his compositions with red, orange, and yellow. While his pictorial style is original, his iconography links him to many earlier expressive and artistic traditions. The haunted settings and tormented figures in his paintings bring to mind the paintings of the fifteenth-century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch. Mars creates a land of raw rococo, a place where “superiority” is ambiguous, offering a serious critique on separation and suffering.

“Ecchy Homo” and “Subderma” will be on view at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts through November 20, 2005.

Related Events

A Critic’s Trialogue, co-sponsored by the Visual Arts Critics Union of Minnesota (V.A.C.U.M.), will feature a talk with Amanda Vail and Mark Wojahn on Thursday, November 17 at 7 p.m.

Artist-guided tours: “Subderma” with Chris Mars, Thursday, October 6 at 7 p.m. “Ecchy Homo” with James F. Cleary, B.F.A., Sunday, October 9 at 3 p.m.

All events are free and open to the public.

The Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program is an artist-run curatorial department of The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which is made possible by generous support from the Jerome Foundation, in celebration of the Jerome Hill Centennial and in recognition of the valuable cultural contributions of artists to society.

Ranked among the top ten comprehensive U.S. art museums, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts is dedicated to bringing art to life for everyone. Located in a beautiful landmark building near downtown Minneapolis, the museum houses approximately 100,000 works of art, representing more than 5,000 years of world history. General admission is always free. Some special exhibitions have a nominal admission fee. Museum Hours: Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.–9 p.m.; Closed Monday. Please allow plenty of time to park, as construction of our exciting expansion project is under way. For additional information, call (612) 870-3131 or visit www.artsmia.org.