May 31-July 12, 2014
Thomas Solomon Gallery
Thomas Solomon Gallery presents Sexus, a solo exhibition of new work by Los Angeles artist
Josh Mannis. In addition to noting Henry Miller's book of the same name, in which the
permissions of sex, and those of artistic becoming are often one and the same, the show's title
"Sexus" evokes a science of classification. This seems to imply a system of names, expressions
and concepts from which identifications can be attached to objects. The implication of the new
works is that this array of conceptual containers can be divided up and then mixed and matched
among the artist’s different multi-figure scenarios.
However, these drawings are often further complicated by a third, observing figure: pictured as
analyzing, reporting, policing, or sanctioning. Generally, the explicit portrayal of sexual subject
matter is used for the purpose of arousal. We know it is associated with voyeuristic activity—
provoking an urge to stare, and implying the social context that prohibits sex. Straddling a
boundary between an internal moment of deep absorption and another of outward public
acknowledgement, the figurative elements of each piece proceed from an interest in types—
pretenses and public guises that are entered as scrambled self-presentations set across a
spectrum of art historical guidelines and modes of figuration. Expressionist printmaking,
counterculture illustration and Baroque-era compositional ideas combine to take on a perversely
descriptive focus. These decorative, extensively worked pieces situate themselves somewhere
between allegorical narratives and impossible, non-functional puzzles.
This process becomes a medium for improvising combinatory possibilities, and the resultant
compositions act like unsolvable riddles that continuously switch and change in their formal and
conceptual relations. All this endless shifting and interference serves to short-circuit the closure of
interpretation, in favor of a free intellectual context in which Mannis can assert and celebrate the
interpersonal potential of art. In Mannis’ videos and drawings from the past few years,
intellectual process is always mired in a maze of sensual contacts and contradictions. It is a zone
of art making that declines viewers’ classifications and labeling in favor of open-ended,
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Josh Mannis currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California.
He received his BFA from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan and his MFA from the
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.