Review of 25 Hours A Day by B. Anele at Private Eye Gallery
by Kelly Johnson
A tongue turned snake-chain writhes up from a checker-cheeked dark face in the corner of the gallery. Across the room, a pigtailed, squiggle-bodied girl vacantly guides a smooth yellow serpent from one emanating red eye, as a dark balloon floats up from the other. Ogling wide eyes rest on a tomato-nose and purple lips, grinning among tiered, cartoonish vignettes of boogying limbs, geometric shapes, and a red elephant suspending a pair of cherries over dice. Elsewhere, a dazed self-portrait of the artist as sad salad-clown labels a crushed aluminum can. In a nearby window, a flower boy plots his escape.
These dizzyingly layered, disarmingly trippy images and objects consume all surfaces in 25 Hours A Day, a high-energy solo exhibition by B. Anele at Private Eye Gallery. Inspired by Les Krims’ lens on the dark humor of embodiment, with a touch of Jason Rhoades’ sensibility toward overload and a spark of Yayoi Kusama’s world-building desire to merge self and art, Anele beckons viewers into their bright post-postmodern, amalgamate world. This particular body of work channels oscillating energies of boundlessness and limitation, establishing play as conduit for the pleasures of overindulgence and restraint.
Some works revel in the liberatory satisfaction of abundance and excess, valuing infinitely additive compositions and challenging the endurance of both artist and viewer. Rewarding a steadfast “Where’s Waldo” gaze, obscured forms begin to emerge from busy painted layers on raw canvas: chimeric faces, fleshy and costumed appendages, juicy fruits, funky foliage, and frisky text, numbers, and dice. Several Frankensteined garments patched with an array of materials—fabric scraps, mesh, ruffles, rings, fake nails, and paint—heave, dangle, and unfurl from the walls. Saturated with vibrant, flat swaths of color, these energetic works tease an optical game of hide and seek, finding pleasure in their compounded complexities.
Other simplified, more singular works address the complementary amusement of being contained, focusing on restraining the body. Delighting in a spectacle of restriction, a circus tent-like, red- and yellow-blocked canvas jacket sports oversized conjoined sleeves and disproportionately long, thin string ties to secure limbs and torso inside. Yellow chains and ropes feature prominently in the structure of other garments and their displays, as playful accessories of control and confinement. The goofy seriousness of stacked cans of leafy B. play up the absurdity of the artist’s body or essence being packaged and consumed. And the aforementioned flower boy presses against his two-dimensional plane with a silly slapstick expression, forever frozen in his constricting circumstance. These works express a complex intrigue toward a bound existence, suggesting restraint can be an entertaining diversion.
The overall display of Anele’s work could benefit from curatorial editing and focus to further these and other conceptual narratives, and many of the displayed garments would be better activated by bodies or accompanying photos of pieces worn by models. Still, the rawness and sheer volume of work highlights the artist’s unyielding production across many mediums, and provides insight into the challenges of processing similar massive amounts of information faster than we can fully comprehend.
In many ways the breakneck pace and flurry of whimsical, sometimes absurd material in the exhibition mirrors the speed and type of content we encounter in our collective reality today. 25 Hours A Day externalizes the thrill of having unlimited access to anything and everything at our fingertips, while acknowledging the pleasures of returning to the comforting limits of the physical body’s grounding truth. The artist’s constructivist fearlessness thrives on this oscillating enjoyment of excess and boundary, bringing a levity to self-reflection on our increasingly intensified, chaotic existence.
25 Hours A Day is on view at Private Eye Gallery (1540 Telephone Rd) through July 27th. B. Anele: I Don’t Play That Game opens at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (4848 S Main St) on July 27, with a reception and fashion show on August 2.