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Mendes Wood DM is proud to present Creatures, Kasper Bosmans’ first solo exhibition in South America, in its new gallery space in Sao Paulo.

Known for his multifaceted and divergent approach to art making, with works that range from sculpture and installation to painting and drawing, Bosmans’ practice is a complex and heady concoction of high art and literature, popular culture, mythology, and anthropology, viewed through a queer and playfully minimalist lens that subversively observes and reinvents narratives that dominate the world around us. These narratives, which the artist prods, pokes and teases out, are significant not only in the artist’s personal world (or closet) but also have a universal resonance.

Bosmans’ presentation takes some of its most important cues from Husbandry, his recent institutional exhibition at WIELS, in Brussels. “What I am taking out of the show at WIELS is the idea of an ‘example’. When I was growing up, I never had a clear queer example. Nobody talked about the kind of love that certain artists were feeling. It’s through this lack of example that one risks getting marginalised by society,” Bosman explains. The presence of tension, unorthodoxy and the impossibility of smoothly navigating through every single detail of his work, is a deliberate reflection on the artist’s part on the what a queer childhood is like for many people. “Everything is clear for the people in power. The rest navigate the margins and are forced to look into the margins.”

While the works in this show deal with this idea of desire, they are artfully furnished with humour, play and a kind of vulgar innuendo, and then sublimed through a minimalist aesthetic into something entirely new - ideas and forms synthesised into an alternative language that purposely avoids a didactic explanation, in the same way that, for so many during childhood, nothing is offered to lessen the burden of the queer experience.

The show opens with two large murals depicting turtles, in reference to the bejewelled turtle in Joris-Karl Huysmans’ novel À rebours, arguably one of the most quintessentially queer novels of the 19th century. The book serves as a template for the idea of the queer cis-male art collector who constructs his own identity in a closet, filled with a vast and exotic collection of objects that not only represent the person, but somehow also yearn for an intimacy which cannot be obtained in the world at large by conventional means.

References and depictions of animals and the natural world abound in the show, from new iterations of Bosmans’ famous Dwarf Parade Dogs, inspired by Paul Thek’s Untitled (Dwarf Parade Table) installation piece from 1969, to his colourful, enamelled steel sculptures of Cuban Painted snails (Polymita Picta), and his Wolf Corridor series which was shown at the WIELS exhibition. “I am interested in the way in which humans look at animals to express themselves, how they create seemingly emotional relationships with them and use them to express themselves. This goes back to the idea of making a mirror of society, of gathering objects, animals and things in your closet with which to self identify and seduce,” Bosmans says.

Elsewhere in the exhibition, Bosmans’ Carry On series of bronze sculptures of stacked slabs of butter is at once a play on the idea of carry-on luggage, because of their size, but also a historically-based innuendo that is simultaneously vulgar, funny and moving, in that it references the highly lucrative contraband of butter, during the 20th century, across the Belgian/Dutch border. The works, which belong to the Boy Butter series, however, are also a not so subtle nod to the kind of lubrication necessary for furtive male-on-male adventures in the woods, a subversive reading of the alpha-male smuggler risking his life to put bread on the table. The works are named after the famous Carry On television series, made popular in Britain during the 1950s, in which the main actor, the famously camp and eternally closeted Kenneth Williams, navigated a heterosexual world of barely-disguised puns, sexy nurse jokes and lascivious innuendos.

All these ambiguities, contradictions and grey areas relate to the artist’s interest in the concept of the ‘monster’. “Think of the Chimera for example, which is a goat, a lion and snake at the same time. If you are more than one thing at the same time then it’s inexplicable, and therefore a monstrosity,” Bosmans says. But as fate would have it, the word ‘monster’, etymologically speaking, derives from the latin word ‘monstrare’ that means ‘to show’. Monsters are, in fact, examples that represent a wider issue. Monsters are demonstrative.

The web of connections drawn by Bosmans here is playful, provocative, highly conceptual but also crass and allusive. Narratives and inversions are played out but not necessarily resolved because, in a sense, they are not up to him to resolve, having existed for centuries in the forms of social dogma, historical behaviours and deviances from what is considered orthodox.  

Kasper Bosmans (Lommel, 1990) lives and works in Brussels.

Recent solo shows include Kasper Bosmans: A Perfect Shop-front, Fondazione Arnaldo Pomodoro, Milan (2021); Kasper Bosmans: Four, Gladstone 64, New York (2020); Kunstintegratie Kasper Bosmans (In Frascati): Papegaaistraat, Ghent (2018); The Words and Days (mud gezaaid, free range), De Hallen, Haarlem (2017); Specimen Days, S.M.A.K., Ghent (2016). Group shows include I Think I Look More like the Chrysler Building, De Vleeshal, Middelburg (2021); The Penumbral Age: Art in the Time of Planetary Change, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw (2020); In the Presence of Absence: Proposals for the Museum Collection, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Together, M HKA, Antwerp (2020); Future Generation Art Prize @ Venice 2019, Palazzo Ca’ Tron, Venice (2019); Young Artists in Europe: Metamorphosis, Fondation Cartier, Paris (2019).

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