“It’s like a Thomas Pynchon novel,” Volunté Morceaux said of his new show, “Forces de Nature,” currently up at the Hull’s Gallery on Whitney Avenue.
But the show is more like a collection of all the annoying, arbitrary and incomprehensible moments in a Thomas Pynchon novel, without any of the conceptual and creative ingenuity. The description of the artist in the show’s introductory pamphlet says, “Morceaux is a post-modern surrealist provocateur.” But the pamphlet, like the rest of the show, cannot be taken seriously.
The paintings would be more aptly categorized as badly done surrealism. The bodies and objects, while purposefully flattened and two-dimensional, look like the workings of somebody who has yet to figure out how to render shapes naturalistically.
There are nine paintings in total. Each one, according to the artist, corresponds to one of the nine planets. There is a guide on the back wall of the gallery that matches a shape that is depicted in each painting to the planet the painting is meant to represent. The viewer can find the shape in the painting and figure out which planet each painting represents.
The subject matter of the paintings is myth. Each of the nine works depicts a story the artist has found on the Internet, usually concerned with mutated or abnormal humans. There is one painting of a “unicorn-man” — a creature that, according to the Wikipedia article posted next to the painting, actually existed and was not uncommon before the year 1900.
Morceaux said his choice to match paintings to planets had to do with the “apocalyptic” nature of the show. But the choice comes off as a way to divert attention from the major shortcomings in the work.
The abrasive colors further draw unnecessary attention to the already problematic formal aspects of the display. While color choice may be subjective, it cannot make up for badly shaped figures. And it does Morceaux’s pieces a disservice precisely because it aggressively demands the viewer’s attention and makes the work’s inherent problems more obvious.
But Morceaux said his process is much less straightforward than scouring the Internet for stories and then painting them. He said it depends heavily on “channeling” what he finds. What the viewer sees, though, are uncreative interpretations of a number of grotesque, attention-seeking stories that are more fun to read about than they are to look at.
The whole of Morceaux’s convoluted and unfocused vision — planets, apocalypse, grotesque myths and mistranslated French titles — feels like a bad athlete’s flashy equipment. Beneath overly dramatic subject matter is decorative and unsuccessful painting. Under only a very light, investigative push from the critic, Morceaux’s show falls completely flat.