Sometimes I wish that there were more contemporary religious myths–stories and images dreamed up in modern day to correspond to what we now know about the world. I’m tempted to read Mark Whalen’s latest exhibition, Paralleled Opposites, in just such a way.
The images in Whalen’s pink and blue bathhouse world remind me of the three great humiliations of the human species–those humiliations delivered by Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud: 1.) When we found out that we weren’t the center of the Universe 2.) That we were descended from monkeys and worms, and 3.) That in the back of everybody’s mind, there is often lurking a penis.
The symbolism used in Mark Whalen’s work is at once spiritual, violent, hedonistic, scientific, playful, and clean. The masked creatures have gathered in this space-age spa-space to commune with each other (whether or not it’s against their will): to bathe in glitter, make love to globes, and to marvel at the beauty of the Earth. The references to space, and Earth-as-map instead of as planet, decentralizes Earth and gives it a Copernican interpretation. The embedded sexual organs give the scene a Freudian hue, and the references to nature could give it a Darwinian relevance. Maybe that’s a stretch, but if you’re still with me, anyway, my point is this: that when this series of little poppets praying in mysterious bath-world is taken altogether, it presents a picture of religiosity that doesn’t refute what we know about the world today, but claims it. Or that’s my reading anyway.
Mark Whalen (aka Kill Pixie), sometimes called Australia’s Banksy, showed his Paralleled Opposites exhibition at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery in L.A. earlier this month. Showing works painted in acrylic on wood is a departure for the artist, who traditionally has done his work on the street. Check out his website here.
by Shawn Johnson