6 March – 13 April 2002
White Cube Duke Street
The paintings and drawings exhibited by American artist Ryan Mendoza form a body of work inspired, in part, by Irvine Welsh’s short story, Career Opportunities and Fanny Licking. Mendoza’s physical and visceral works feature images of anonymous figures sourced from contexts that range from the internet to antique snap shots and discarded memorabilia.
Mendoza treats his found subject matter much like an author does his characters, placing them in particular narrative scenarios, or making emotionally-telling changes to their physical features. Some of the paintings depict the moment before or after violent sexual scenes that involve role-play, games of domination and subordination, and the fetishism of children. In others, close-ups of faces and bodies are brutally cropped, thrusting the viewer up against the subject, as if they were caught in a fight or embrace. For one of his portraits, The General (2000), Mendoza has made the subject’s mouth into a void, a black gash that mutes and finalises the image.
The suggestion of both physical and psychological entrapment conjured up by the paintings is further emphasised by their aggressive spatial arrangements and an inert, heavy picture surface resulting from the extremely dense application of paint. Mendoza’s palette is a restricted one—flesh tones slip into the black, white and grey of the canvases, in which the figure hovers behind a field of unspecific grey matter punctuated only by the occasional burst of primary colour.