Spanish Fly: A New Series of Paintings by Scooter LaForge at Untitled
December 2 - December 6
Untitled: Art Miami Beach OVR 2020
Fairy tales, cartoons, and old-master paintings are elements Scooter LaForge absorbs and transforms with intuitive reverie. Howl! Happening presents a new painting series by the artist—Spanish Fly—where an exploration of Francisco de Goya’s work and life become visual narrative front and center.
Spanish Fly grows out of LaForge’s interest in Goya, a painter who was also a commentator of his times. Goya’s insistence on subjectivity and emotion is mirrored on the murals LaForge painted in his New York East Village apartment during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Those murals include several references to Goya’s Black Paintings, which the Spaniard executed toward the end of his life as a meditation on human bleakness.
LaForge’s latest painting series is an antidote to the darkness. The artist explores Goya works that tap into eroticism and social observation. An intuitive mash-up of Goya with themes and characters dear to the artist, LaForge deliberately chooses to keep the paintings expressive, exploding with light and color.
Secret Gift, a painting based on Goya’s Maja desnuda—considered indecent in its time and possibly commissioned by a member of the clergy—takes the famous figure of the nude woman outdoors, where a monkey from Goya’s Caprichos aquatint series serenades her, along with a clothed raven.
The larger-scale portrait Goya, 69 is based on the Spaniard’s 1804 self-portrait. A sense of forced feminization is applied to the subject with brushstrokes evoking bright, playful makeup in reds and shocking pinks. Butterflies seem to have flown in from Prince Carlos, an equestrian fantasy portrait of Kafka-esque transformation that continues this series.
Another portrait, Till Death, portrays a gender-fluid character at their vanity mirror getting ready for a night out. The painting presents layers of references: an aquatint from Caprichos inspired an unknown artist to render a painting that in turn became LaForge’s starting point for his painting. Ogling men from the original mysterious work are replaced with bulls from another Caprichos image. The portrait pulls the series back into the darkness of the Black Paintings, this time illuminated by a candle sourced from another of the Spaniard’s works.
Where Is Goya’s Head? completes LaForge’s series by using the composition of Dog, one of Goya’s Black Paintings, as a template to take an imaginative leap into portraying the court painter’s solitary head with lit candles on the brim of his hat—a secret method for night-painting that gave his portraits a special luminosity. Allegorically, the candles provide light to a reference from Still Life With Golden Bream, one of Goya’s few still lifes, now part of a multilayered visual poem on the mind of the Spanish master.
Internalizing the painterly references of Goya, the spontaneous brush work and allegorical subject matter reflect LaForge’s complex and intuitive style, referencing the grotesque with humor, while creating a 21st century visual narrative for these darkest of times.
About Scooter LaForge
Scooter LaForge was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and moved to New York City in 2001 for a Cooper Union residency. He has lived in the East Village for the past 19 years. In 2015, the LaForge was awarded a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant. He is a frequent collaborator with artists and designers of various disciplines, among them his friend, designer Patricia Field; filmmaker Kenneth Anger; painter Bjarne Melgaard; and designer Walter Van Beirendonck. LaForge has also designed costumes for musicians such as Madonna, Debbie Harry, Missy Elliot, and Miley Cyrus. Recent exhibitions include Homo Eruptus at Howl! Happening, New York; Creation of the Animals at Empirical Nonsense, New York; Elsewhere Paintings at Nancy Littlejohn Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; and The Odyssey at Jealous Gallery, London. LaForge is in the collections of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art and Beth Rudin DeWoody.
Image: Secret Gift, 2020. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 36 x 48 in