Tag Archives: body language

Arts

Who Goes There? “Body Language: Hunter Stamps and Mike Goodlett”

The space at the University of Kentucky Art Museum taken over by Mike Goodlett and Hunter Stamps for their show “Body Language” is all white light, white walls and ceiling, delivering microcosmic grandeur, with the floor holding most of the merchandise. The merch here are sculptures, some ceramic, some plastic and concrete, and they all seem to be humming different little mysterious tunes as you walk past them. The music is not music, though; it’s a new form of silence, manufactured by each little monument and doodad. A music that can hum itself into geometry and then into dream and back out into warehouse, reality, nowhere.

Installation view, “Body Language: Hunter Stamps and Mike Goodlett”, University of Kentucky Art Museum

The humble materials seem to dictate that feeling of nowhere, but also give you something delightful to hold onto. In Stamps’ case, materials run the gamut from ceramic to rubber, glazed stoneware to encaustic. They are handsomely grotesque and grotesquely handsome totems dedicated to discovering what it means to be abandoned. Stamps creates a catalog of carapaces and nests and body parts no longer in use, monumentally devoid and yet somehow beautifully decorative because of the obsessive nature of their creation.

Hunter Stamps, “Naked Lunch”, clay – Photo by Keith Banner

One piece, titled “Naked Lunch,” honors the icky, off-kilter 1991 movie David Cronenberg made based on William S.  Burroughs’ icky messed-up novel, a terracotta paean to stylized verbal flourishes, but also baroque and stylish enough to pass as a vase. “Utterance” is a chunk of a Philip Guston painting come to life so it can die a miserable, beautiful death. Kind of like a giant, malformed ruby-slipper, the ceramic and rubber effigy accesses the tongue as its inspiration, but there’s a weariness to its positioning, like this big sad tongue just got back from war.

Hunter Stamps, “Enrapture II”, glazed ceramic, 28″X14″x14″ – Photo courtesy of the artist

Hunter Stamps, “Enrapture II”, glazed ceramic, 28″X14″x14″ – Photo courtesy of the artist

“Enrapture II,” a glazed ceramic riff on sci-fi horror tentacles freezing into stasis, is both a celebration of fierce otherworldliness and a quiet meditation on nature once removed. When you approach it, it seems to harden into itself from the other state it is in when you are not looking. That transformative feeling is built into a lot of Stamps’ works: they seem to be gorgeous props in some kind of big-budget nightmare, like John Carpenter’s 1982 magnum latex opus “The Thing” molecularly fusing with the detritus and emotions inside every 21st Century skull.

Installation view, “Body Language: Hunter Stamps and Mike Goodlett”, University of Kentucky Art Museum

Mike Goodlett’s works play off Stamps’ theatrical body horror perfectly; they have a plush and sordid sarcasm built into their solid concrete souls, as if Hello Kitty and R. Crumb had babies. Playfully adorned in muted nursery hues, they are intense cartoons evaluating the atmosphere, controlling whatever environment they occupy with their passive-aggressive cuteness and de Chirico anonymity. The lovely and dour “Flower of My Secret,” made of plain old concrete and paint, hovers over itself with a cobra-like menace, and yet offers a sort of hardened comfort, a mummified sensuality. “Tiny Dancer,” made of hydrostone, paint and Mason stain, is a tombstone meshed with dessert, its sweetness overcome by its pallor, its finish basking in the unfinished qualities of its unnerving neck brace, its globular antennae. You feel talked to and ignored at the same time.

Mike Goodlett, “Sir Lancelot”, 2019, concrete, hydrostone, oil based paint – Photo by Keith Banner

Another hydrostone and concrete masterpiece, “Sir Lancelot” references a dildo, an ashtray, and the supple shoulders of a 1920s mannequin, all in service to creating an object nothing can land on, meaning can’t find. It’s something meant to be worshipped, but also has a tough ironic sheen, a placidity earned from being warehoused within itself. It ain’t going anywhere, but it’s been all over the universe, glossy and crazy and very quiet.

Michael Goodlett, “Pearl”, 2019, concrete, hydrostone, oil based paint – Photo by Keith Banner

Stamps and Goodlett have packaged their two-person gig under the title “Body Language,” pulling together two opposing forces in service to the absurdity of their pursuit: where does the body end and language begin? How can language ever really describe and/or contain the body with all its organs and tumors and bones, oh my?

The show itself could be likened to both a fulfillment center and a mausoleum, objects breathing and not breathing, curling toward their own version of glamour and also laughing at the way each one of them is dying an undignified death. Goodlett and Stamps have created a Vaudevillian planet together, an Aztec temple on acid, a nightmare toy shop, a landscape populated by creatures and things unnamable, and yet the body language emanating from each piece, ossified through concrete and clay, creates an ongoing and impenetrable narrative. Stories and histories come at you in a foreign language that has never been codified, never written down. All of these objects are refugees, survivors of some absurd holocaust only they know about.

And they aren’t talking.

topical

Body Language Debate?

There’s quite some distance between the violence of the ancient Italian sport of Calcio Storico and the interactive “debate without words” that happens when Shaun Leonardo leads a session of his social practice project, Primitive Games. But Leonardo, who will bring his art to the campus of Transylvania University on February 27, was inspired by the 16th century form of football-meets-rugby that got its start in the Piazza Santa Croce in Florence. 

“While I was taking this in and really studying it as a sport that enacts violence for the sake of violence, that has very few rules, I was also glued to television and witnessing what I experienced as the demise of political debate. The ways in which we once understood debates was evolving into simply a strategy of proving one’s side right over another,” Leonardo explained in an interview to be featured on this week’s edition of Eastern Standard on WEKU. Here’s a sampling:

Embed for Tom Martin with Shaun Leonardo

Through his project, Leonardo asks, “Are we, through non-verbal action, able to model and momentarily restore purpose to the act of debate, by seeing difference not as a hindering factor but as a necessary component to reaching consensus and enacting change?” 

Volunteers have been selected to participate in Leonardo’s Lexington workshop, including students, faculty, staff and Transy campus police chief Gregg Muravchick. Part of the university’s Creative Intelligence Series, his lecture will take place in Carrick Theater on campus at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 27.

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Tom Martin is a co-publisher of UnderMain, producer and host of Eastern Standard on Eastern Kentucky University public radio station WEKU, a columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader, and Student Media Advisor at Transylvania University.