Surrealist show misses mark

Volunté Morceaux described his show at the Hull’s Gallery as “apocalyptic” in nature.
Volunté Morceaux described his show at the Hull’s Gallery as “apocalyptic” in nature. Photo by Lucas Zwirner.

“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.


  • Volonte Morceaux

    Sacre Bleu!!!!

    If the show is not to be taken seriously, why has it so effectively revealed the critic(Lucas Zwirner) as a phony.

    I urge you all to see the show for yourself, and draw your own conclusions.

  • yalie

    well, hah. 8 planets. RIP Pluto

  • Volente Morceaux

    As far as I know, Pluto is still a body in motion (actually it has a twin, Charon, which may be bigger). If you are sitting behind your computer, passing off superficial rhetoric as discourse, then you are the one who is dead.

    Of course, you may live again!!!

    The reasons for Pluto’s inclusion will bee made more apparent if you come to the exhibit and ‘investigate’ for yourself.

  • also a yalie

    This self-indulgent ‘critique’ is a cheap shot at a local artist.

  • Katro

    Critics may disagree about the artistic worth of the exhibit.

    My questions to you, Mr. Zwirner are:

    Did you really go to the exhibit?
    Have you seen the movie “Freaks”, by todd browning (1932)?

    It might clear up some of the mystery.

  • Bill Saunders

    Excuse me, is my research correct???

    Did you just send a freshman to insult a serious art show for a grade???

    Respond with real article about my show.

  • New Haven Art Aficionado

    Mr. Morceaux: “bravo!”

    Mr. Zwirner: “sorry you missed the boat.”

    Great show… full of wit, irony and socio-political satire. Morceaux cleverly uses absurd characters, obscure references and linguistic abominations in a full assault on the folly of humankind and the evolutionary endgame. Unfortunately, all of that eluded Mr. Zwirner while he was focusing on those darned flat, unnatural shapes and colors. Maybe a heavier “investigative push” would have opened a different door for him.

  • Baby G

    Take a bow Monsieur Morceaux…
    Young Mr. Zwerner’s choice of undeserved harsh words comes off as way to divert attention from the major shortcomings of his ability as a critic. The abrasive comments further draw unnecessary attention to the already problematic formal aspects of the critique.While opinion may be subjective, it can not make up for badly shaped arguments. And it does Zwerners criticisms a disservice precisely because it aggressively demands the readers attention and makes the critique’s inherent problems more obvious. But what the reader sees, though, are uncreative interpretations of a number of grotesque, attention seeking behaviors that are more fun to make fun of than read.

    Great Show Morceaux…Great Show!

  • Sir Lancelot

    Interestingly enough, a ” critic” with absolutely no artistic value nor formal art training has in his own deluded mind concocted such a satire out of his own convoluted grandiose peanut brain a story without ever thinking about his shortcomings not only as a ” critic” but also as an art connosieur, his penchant for harsh wording, can only come from a lack of self-esteem and from repressed sexuality the likes of his imagination that has no boundaries with wording, granted opinions are like a—-holes, everyone has one but this bufoon has gone so far as to categorize and demonize not only the wonderful choice of art that Barbara Hawes has chosen but to ingratiate himself with his readership this swine fella has sullied the impeccable style of painting the likes his ilk shall never produce for his prudish upbringing doesn’t allow freedom of expresion wether it be in writting sentences or paintings at large, his ignorance of the subject and his abhorrence of himself betray not only an absence of the mind but also the complete anihilation of an open mind, notice full well his penchant for negative commentary, swine lives in a cave or a castle of his own imagination where he rules with an iron fist and if you don’t like it he will write stupendously, flighty banter in order to ingratiate himself with editors everywhere, hopefully serving himself to a reference in some art magazine etal…since when do we allow nitwits who never met a real painter in their lives cast such judgement upon local art, to come from wherever and appoint themselves an critic? and to also print for the sake of printing just so your swine name is recognized near and far, that is like the H1N1 swine, if your snout has lost its touch and its sense of all things fine and if your judgement as been clouded by delusions of grandeur then maybe you should show yourself in person and fairly speak and interview the painter, maybe then after your opinion shall indeed be clear and concise and all the news that’s fit to print shall be given due justice, until then your poor journalism speaks for itself, knowing full well that if you were to be caught plagiarizing as you already have, your ivy league would cast you out like you deserve for smearing unfairly and for appointing yourself a nobody with a title that you own not even 1% of, in closing, may your campaign of ignorance end and may your superiors realise that you are not the one who will decide a career on painting and may they educate you further for you are sorely lacking……..Cheers.

  • mm

    There’s nothing annoying, arbitrary, or incomprehensible about a Thomas Pynchon novel. The critic should try reading one before making such a vapid generalization about one of the greatest novelists of our time.