CHRISTOPHER ST. JOHN: UNINHABITABLE
Circuitous Succession Gallery / 1789 Kirby Pkwy., 2nd Floor of Exceed November 25, 2017 - December 20, 2017
Christopher St. John
The small works on paper presented here were originally part of the exhibition “Four Days After the Rabbit” exhibited at AKA Gallery in Portland, Oregon in May of 2017. The other drawings are part of similar groups of work that have been exhibited in France at Galerie Biz’Art Biz’Art the past five years. I used the rabbit as an animal symbol that expressed my outrage over the election, although in the context of my working method it is more accurate to say that the rabbit speaks to me first and I listen, since it is a form that often appears in my figurative work. I embarked on this body of paintings, drawings, and sculpture immediately after the election of the Orange Iguana. The drawing suite consists of animal hybrids, naked human figures with the heads of rabbits inhabiting empty spaces surrounded by abstract forms. The figures are simultaneously men, women, children, hybrid genders, and the absence of gender, fluid forms capable of evolving infinitely, sexual and nonsexual all at once. Each work on paper presents an isolated individual, naked and vulnerable, oblivious to the others around it, occasionally making interesting collections like a community with the other forms around it. There is no up or down in these drawings, little suggestion of ground, the only material ground being the presence of its awareness, its nervous system, a product of biology. They are alive and extremely vulnerable, beings of blood and skin and emotion and need. For the original exhibition, the entire suite was hung in the shape of a rabbit head, which marked it as occupying sacred ground.
The rabbit in the context of this exhibition and this work serves both as a marker for the fear and the anxiety we live with in the age of terror, the national consequence of living in a state of a continuous and nebulous war since the September 11 attacks, and as a symbol of our connection to the natural world, imperfect primate stewards that we are. It is hard not to imagine a fire just over the hill given the political and ecological catastrophes that have become our new normal, and I wanted to create a body of work that spoke to another narrative, a narrative about vulnerability, about the hungers and blind drives of our species and the disaster and harm that might be visited upon us as we blunder electronically onward. This work also serves as a counter narrative to the myths of apocalypse and destruction. It is compassion, caring, and kindness that I want to inspire in people with my drawings, compassion in the face of our strangeness and our otherness which we seem bent on denying, demonizing, and scapegoating. As a people, I think we are very confused, and that confusion only breeds more disaster. For the AKA Exhibition, the title of this group of rabbit drawings was “When the Fire Comes, I Hope They Remember Tenderness” since it was an installation.
image: Uninhabitable, Christopher St. John