Andy Fabo at MOCCA (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, 952 Queen West), to December 31. 416-395-0067. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
This retrospective charts the career that led painter/multimedia artist/queer activist Andy Fabo to his current unique synthesis of painting, video and installation.
As a member of the local Chromazone arts collective, Fabo's paintings centring on the male figure celebrated the electric eroticism of 70s gay liberation and recorded the growing toll of HIV/AIDS. In his early career he eschewed the intense focus on photography, video and performance that dominated the 70s.
Now he works comfortably within all these media. Figuration remains, however, as does the male figure. His early stud series is a playful send-up of queer Adonis stereotypes, each figure shirtless, wearing a pair of actual jeans glued onto his painted body and sporting an individual "package."
Fabo's later style has matured into an urgent, painterly collage of colour, text and form reminiscent of 80s neo-expressionism Jorg Immendorff often comes to mind.
His new, muscular work depicts more intense wrangling with the dilemmas and contradictions of queer identity. A painting of three male figures entwined with serpents is both a classical reference to Laocoon and a back-room allegory about the dangerous nature of compulsion and sexuality.
Desire as both a release and a prison becomes a deep theme when he addresses the ravages of disease and time, represented most strikingly by a wall series that progressively blurs the same reiterated face.
Fabo's most recent work goes beyond the body to a larger sense of common history and the surrounding world. His installations and computer-generated montages pit the lone, naked and desiring self against patterns of mechanical and mass culture. Figures are contrasted with aerial photos or patterns of cellular motion, paintings are cross-referenced with video and text, and elements are placed in configurations that refer to consumer culture.
His early celebrations of queer identity have grown into broader meditations on the antagonism of the desiring self toward the depersonalizing and controlling forces of nature, culture and time.