Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles, USA
For his second solo show in L.A., Scott Treleaven has augmented his cut-paper collages with watercolour backgrounds and painted figures, conjuring an old-fashioned expressiveness and tempering the violence of the images with an alluring prettiness. The scene of these numerous small works is dominated by the tortured bodies of lithe young men posed in positions that refer at once to bondage fetishes and occult ritual sacrifice. While these men are for the most part cut out from photocopies of photographs, the painterly mists that surround them diminish the hard edges.
‘Witchcraft Through the Ages (i-xiii)’ (all works 2007) is a series of small collages arranged salon-style on a single wall, resembling pages from an out-of-print history book. While some of the thirteen images present moments drawn from a recognizably Western past – a medieval mob carrying a body; a modern séance – others represent atemporal beings, such as a demon-red feminine form emerging from the shadows, or the silhouettes of two satyrs poised for anal sex. The ‘ages’ referred to in the title become a hybrid of real and supernatural moments, proposing a congruity between historical events and extra-sensory experience.
Yet Treleaven is by no means lost in a mystical romance of the past. The fluidity with which he incorporates materials confirms his contemporary sensibility; the zine-like cut-outs mix with video-stills and drawings in a blend that privileges none of these forms. Disrupting the preciousness of the paper works, video is also included, extending the notion of collage across media. Scrying Box is a black cube with an open top perched on a white pedestal. Embedded in each of the box’s four interior walls is a video screen displaying a colorful montage of trees, stairs, and faces. As sculptural contrivances for video display go, this minimalist homage is particularly effective. Most charming is the collapse of the cube, which is associated with a masculine modernist strategy, into a crystal ball, an icon of feminine power. One reduces meaning into an essential form, the other opens meaning to incomprehensible possibilities.
At first glance, Treleaven’s work can be taken as another aesthetic exercise in homoerotic naughtiness. More interesting than the work’s sexiness is its queerness (in the sense of radical sexuality) which envisions resistance through witchcraft and ritualistic sex. While we have passed that historical moment when gay white identity created a dangerous counterculture, Treleaven allows us to re-envision that possibility through a lens of queer magic.
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