Poison IV, a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Brian Kokoska, presented an installation of paintings, sculptures and found objects at Paris’s Galerie Valentin which took place from September 5 to October 10, 2015. Disparate elements of the fragmented self are scattered and forced into conversation with one another, housed within a shared chromatic logic of basic black and sickly green. The exhibition becomes a type of body rooted in symbolism and complicated by childhood emblems. The multi-directional reference points of the show set the tone for an experience that is both clinical and magical, inviting yet chilling.
The swampy green and black paintings take on a basic abstract language. Large brush strokes and simple yet symbolic shapes make up a disjointed face in two of the paintings, embracing the ‘my kid could paint that’ style. The third is a medley of suburban adolescent magic; dreamcatchers, half-moons, a circle-circle-dot-dot booby drawing, card numbers and dice. The practice of finding yourself spreads itself out in a spontaneous display of gestures.
The objects dotting the room pop out in stark contrast with the neon background which is reminiscent of green screen technology, 3D animation or the strategy of fluorescents in a hospitalized space. ‘Young Family (RIP)’ uses cable ties to conjoin inflatable mannequin body parts with childhood vintage stuffed animals. In ‘Untitled (The Bouncers Call Her Sweetheart)’ the blow up mannequin is contorted out of shape, barely legible as a body. A toy green frog smiles at you.
More green toys crop up around the room, all cabled tied and positioned as if squished and suffocated under the arm of a loving child. The sculpture sat atop what looks like a bedside table, is described by Kokoska as a “fiberglass statue”, a statue or monument of an anthropomorphized hamburger with knives cable tied to its ‘head’. Beside is another ball of mannequins with a toy glo worm reading ‘Pajama Party (It’s Not A Sleepover Till Somebody Dies)’. Above, another green toy hangs from the ceiling.
Childhood references are always deeply rooted within a space that is both fragile and imaginary, a bubble that can easily burst when punctured. While the show is undeniably quite dark and perverse in its overt contamination of nostalgia, it is lightened and balanced by the humorous exploration of Self: the exhibition becomes a myriad of meditations on our relationship with death. The sincere attempt within adolescent exploration of bodily metamorphosis seeps through the room full of grinning toys; blissful ignorance secured to cartoon prototypes of coded bodies, a reminder that to be alive is to be in flux and in a constant transformation between creation and destruction.**
Exhibition photos, top right.
Brian Kokoska’s Poison IV was on at Paris’s Galerie Valentin, running September 5 to October 10, 2015.
Header image: Brian Kokoska, Poison IV (2015). Installation view. Photo by Sylvie Chan Liat. Installation view. Courtesy Galerie Valentin, Paris.