Whitehot Magazine, Issue #4, June/July/August 2007.
Written by Mallory Farrugia
Ill Morphology: Anthony Ausgang, Thomas Han, and Joe Ledbetter. Copronason Gallery, Bergamot Station, 9 June 2007
Two rooms and half a passage way of cartoon art. I went first to the back room, which featured a more burlesque crowd and four walls of well-received artwork. I realized quickly that over half of Joe Ledbetter's cartoon animals, adorned with hairdryers, chainsaws, gossamer wings and magic wands, had in fact sold. In an even shorter amount of time two men approached me; one inquiring as to whether I was an artist or an art critic and the other seeking permission to read my palm. The former didn't hang around long. The latter, by contrast, launched a lengthy analysis of his perceived baggage surrounding my sex life and offered a few nuggets of unsolicited dime-paperback advice. I averted my eyes frequently, but Ledbetter's painting Revenge of the War Pigs seemed only to mock me.
Joe Ledbetter. Revenge of the War Pigs:
I extracted myself as quickly as possible and progressed to the main room, which housed the work of Anthony Ausgang as well as the one couple who had arrived in costume. The room stayed relatively empty until the goth-jazz fusion band struck up for a second round, at which point the goth kids- corsets on the ladies, skinny ties on the men, and eyeliner on both- began to filter back in. The music grew increasingly eerie: a quality well suited to the work's wink-of-the-eye surrealism. Ausgang himself was in attendance, dressed head to toe in distorted camouflage: perhaps a subtle reference to the work? He explained that the elimination of the human form, the most hackneyed element found in visual expression, was a way to advance the history of art.
"We've been depicting the human form since we began etching pictures on the walls of caves, he said. Don't you think it's time to shitcan what's been done since the beginning of history and move on?"
He was quick to reject Abstract Expressionism as too simple an option for achieving this end. Anyone can throw paint on a canvas, he said. Thus we see his more hybrid approach: a meticulously executed neon-colored cat, reclining and holding a cigarette, juxtaposed against an abstract background. It's abstraction set against total control, he expounded.
Anthony Ausgang. Catnip Cigarette:
And what is your reaction to the labeling of your work as "low brow?" I asked. But, before he could reply, an Asian man politely interrupted, anxious for a brief word with the artist.
-Have you ever seen a computer simulation of the universe? he asked in a heavy accent.
-Really? You have never seen an astronomical computer simulation? Like of the stars and the galaxies?
-But you know that the backgrounds of your paintings look very much like the distribution of stars throughout the universe...You may believe that it's random, but there are very complex mathematical equations that allow us to determine that distribution...
-Ausgang looked uncomfortable. He was finally able to shake his inquisitor and turn back to answer my question: By the way, I hate the term "low brow." It's unacceptably pejorative.
We agreed. The academics are mocking themselves.
On my way out I stopped to more closely inspect one of his large paintings whose caption was marked with a red dot. I scanned the room guessing at its buyer. A nouveau Johnny Depp wallflower and Ausgang's Asian fan were each contemplating the piece with quiet, contented smiles.