In conjunction with Debs & Co. "All SYSTEMS GO: Mission Anemone"
November 18 – December 23, 1999
We are pleased to present our fifth exhibition of the work of THOMAS WOODRUFF as our show, which will conclude our exhibition schedule for the 20th century. Woodruff, an early proponent of the conceptual figurative approach to painting, who has painted 365 individual apple "portraits", 26 mysterious 'secret chart' scrolls, multi-colored crying clowns, hearts and daggers, and mutated balloon animals, is now painting ROCKET SHIPS.
But it's not nearly that simple. Woodruff has been organizing these paintings as different thematic missions, and two missions will blast-off from two different galleries in their last offerings of the millennium.
The overall title of this project is "All Systems Go". Woodruff uses fantasy rocket ship designs (derived from hundreds of quick sketches of spacecraft he's collected from friends, students, and family) as a leitmotif to symbolize the fears and inevitability of going to a different place, one's "ticket off the planet". This phenomenon is particularly pressing for those suffering from cancers and HIV infection; Woodruff's friends who face impending mortality were his initial inspiration for this series.
Employing a bizarrely celebratory and sentimental illustrative style, and an eleven-image structure (countdown from ten and blast-off), Woodruff builds mysterious, emotional worlds where the clanging bells of the new millennium sound distinctly off key.
"Mission Poesy", which will be seen at P.P.O.W, are large scenes painted in gothic peaked canvases that make a fey nod to traditional history painting. Utilizing a homespun mythology where all the gods and goddesses are played by those near and dear to the artist, groomed and costumed for their appropriate roles, i.e. men in skunk suits, a young man in a swan headdress, the artist's father as a shaman caveman - these are "painted pageants". Woodruff whips up traditional iconographic images, spikes it with high and low cultural references, spins it into the deeply personal, and serves up hermetic places where nature and technology are in a woozy balance and where the characters calmly contemplate their fate. With "Mission Poesy" Woodruff makes the inarguable case that one of the most effective ways to transport oneself is through imagination.
DEBS & CO. will be exhibiting "Mission Anemone", paintings and works on paper, starring the illustrious Slug Fairies. Mission Anemone, a series of 11 paintings on panels shaped like shields, are modest in size in comparison to the heroic "Mission Poesy" shown at P.P.O.W. In this group of paintings Woodruff invents slug fairy creatures that are used to illustrate the differences between the public and private or the domestic and the heroic. Inspired by the collaged spaces of traditional heraldic designs, Woodruff composes outside and underground scenes linked by flowers, ribbons, eyes, stars and engagement rings. These anthropomorphic creatures are both adorable and pathetic characters, who lead their domestic lives while fanciful rockets tower above them. Whether asleep at home, doing a puzzle or ice skating the slug fairies cozy home life is always threatened by the larger world outside. The two exhibitions, one of very large scale works and one of pieces more modest in scale, is emblematic of Woodruff's investigation of the domestic vs. public.
The accompanying suite of watercolors, using real rose petals, continues to detail the adventures of the slug fairies. In these lavish and lovingly detailed pieces, the Slug Fairies are caught in the act of gambling, performing Hamlet and burning in hell (to describe a few). However, in all instances the slug fairies rise to the occasion and carry on their noble and pathetic lives in spite of all odds.