535 West 22 Street
New York NY 10011
September 6 – October 4, 2003
Guns blazing, Barnaby Furnas returns for his second solo show at Marianne Boesky, offering, in three dozen works on paper, a spectacle of guts, glory, and an occasional orgy.
In colors that have become archetypes in today’s print media, Furnas obsesses (and rightfully so) on issues of political paranoia, personal excess, and a resolute, national impulse to self-destruct. Shady operatives lurk in the tall reeds; they twirl their guns. Bacchanals play out on the world stage; we can hardly differentiate the orgy from the bloodbath. Battle scenes are extravaganzas of Homeric proportions; to die the good death is to be “Blown To Bits.” Vanity and violence are the sexual currency of our lives. Rock concerts are convocations of blood cults. We shadowbox, shirtless, on the beach.
With the present global situation-terrorism, rampant religiosity-equations of violence=ecstasy become particularly compelling. The unsettling relationship between fundamentalism and war/murder is, as they say, right on target. Furnas’s false prophets, however, are not bunkered deep in deserts. They are rock stars and, surprisingly to many, U.S. politicians. Honest Abe, the most lauded of all U.S. presidents, earns the ire of Furnas’s brush. As Lincoln is worshipped by faceless masses, the questions form: And what about the civil war? Was all that bloodshed really necessary? Perhaps, suggests Furnas, that is a part of the American psyche: the will to unnecessary war. Lincoln, in the second to last work in the show, shoots off his own head. In the final image of the show, Furnas gives us, “Killing the Dead,” a depiction, not so much of the dead being killed, as the dead being maimed. This, to Furnas, is the advent of history: the celebration of the wars and murders we accept.
A version of this review appeared in Time Out New York September 29, 2003