Vicious is Base, Man!

vi·cious/ˈviSHəs/ = Cruel or violent. (of an animal) Wild and dangerous to people. Gary Baseman’s new exhibition Vicious is about hunger, the drive in all of us that exists. He says:

“Vicious is about primal urges. Wanting so much to the point of losing control. Not knowing how deeply you are inflicting pain on another person. Drawing Blood. Being blood thirsty. Reflecting the beast inside of us.

As a child, I felt compelled to follow the rules and stay in control. Yet I was fascinated by monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula and the Wolfman. Monsters broke conventional rules. It was their job to destroy. They were flawed and twisted, and eventually they lost control. They were loved for being hated and misunderstood. They inspired me to create my own images of good and evil, joy and suffering, or maybe I should say, a perceived notion of all of these.

From early on I was drawn to anti-social characters in subversive dramas like “A Clockwork Orange” and “Blue Velvet.” I sang out loudly to The Clash and Velvet Underground. I listened to defiant words and looked at violent images, but behaved like a model citizen. For me, rebellion came out in my art where I pushed against blind tradition. Starting in the mid-80s, I found my work in highly respected legitimate publications like Time, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New York Times that accepted my “edgy” raw approach to message-making. I continued to experiment with my mark-marking in alternative magazines like Beach Culture and Ray Gun. Even in television with ABC/Disney, I didn’t want to fit into their format. I wanted them to fit into mine. This kind of approach is still important to me, where I aim for something authentic rather than familiar and safe or trendy.

Vicious represents uncontrolled passion that can be dark and messy. It’s about a hunger for love so great that you kill what you love. Vicious is personified by a new creature called Ahwroo, who is furry and cute but has fangs and claws and will slice your flesh without thinking. He plays with a beloved sweet-looking girl, but either of them could be “the killer.” Using a rough, primitive approach to painting, I tapped into my own hunger to understand my ferocious appetite to produce a meaningful body of work.

I see a dark side of viciousness today. Blind passion. The walking wounded. The greed of Wall Street, the righteous religious suffocating who they see as non-believers. Hollywood wannabes clawing for fame for the sake of fame. Viciousness is sharp and painful.”

The exhibition is in Milan, Italy: Opens Thursday, April 5 at Antonio Colombo Arte Contemporanea, Via Solferino 44.

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