Contributed by Jacob Patrick Brooks / People love to categorize stuff, however silly it sometimes seems. Despite the best efforts of post-modernist artists to remove separations among media, they have proven surprisingly resilient. If you subvert categories, new ones tend to take their place. Jobi Bicos, whose work is currently on display at Lubov on the Lower East Side, is a savvy and interesting artist not because they�re trying to destroy them outright, but because they�re straddling several at once.
The pieces are smaller than you might imagine, all around the size of a piece of printer paper. The building blocks of each piece include handmade frames, alternating canvas and silkscreen mesh, and visible staples. Moving through the gallery is like flipping through the pages of a scrap book, more casual and friendly than the white cube generally allows. It creates a disarming sense of vulnerability: look at what I drew today. The show is touchingly weird.
The subject matter of the drawings is broadly anatomy. Among the recurring motifs are portraits, sometimes hidden by cats as in Seb and Roux (1); teeth, always cartoonishly sharp; and abstract blobs suggesting cells. The show�s title, �Dragon Guts,� conjures flesh and viscera. Full Empty looks like floaters that cross your field of vision when you�re staring into space. Bicos generates a surprisingly tactile experience of looking. It�s hard to resist running your fingernails across the silk screen. The paper feels as though it was ripped straight out of a sketchbook and pinned to the frame just in time for viewing � a human antidote to cold, manufactured mesh.
The artist�s marks are confident and varied. Some appear to have been made by several pencils held at once and dragged in parallel across the surface; others meander. Most resemble neurons or veins, as though Bicos were imagining how a head with no skull might appear. Two blobs near each other look like cross-sections of an eyeball that a child might glean from glancing through an anatomy textbook � translucent and kind of gross, but totally fascinating.
Another fine drawing is Cleavage. It seems sticky, as if the delicate bubble-cells depicted could grip your fingers and stretch as you pulled back your hand. Against the shaded area to the left, open space on the right begs to be occupied. The emptiness recalls the cloud of dust in the shape of a suddenly departed character in a Looney Tunes cartoon, here just a torso instead of Road Runner or Bugs Bunny, the recent presence hinted by the loose hang of paper over the frame�s edge. An Elizabeth Murray-esque shape arising from the paper layers disturbs the dead-center placement and, again, intimates that the piece might have been torn out of something larger.
As with Murray�s work, we�re denied a clear indication of exactly what we�re looking at. Disparate parts are brought together to make a new, unfamiliar whole. Each piece is essentially a stretched canvas made with mismatched pieces of wood, turned inside out, reinforcing Bicos� intense curiosity about what we�re made of. Though figurative, what sets their work apart from contemporary body art is its concern with the guts. They�re inviting us to pay less attention to how a body looks, more to how it�s built. Beyond that, they are introducing a new configuration. What if your body were improvised to perform a desired function that it originally could not?
The ability to alter the body has rarely entered the conversation about figurative art. The conventional view is that when you work with the figure, you are largely faithful to physical norms. This work is a subtly targeted assault on this predisposition. The wood usually isn�t flush and the staples are haphazard. Each piece�s roughness underlines its uniqueness as an object, perhaps reflecting human divergence. Throughout the show, Bicos avoids binary distinctions. Nothing is exactly a sculpture or a drawing. The work is neither entirely figurative nor resolutely abstract. It�s clinical, yet expressive. Bicos gently but decisively plays with our expectations and lays new ground rules for their work that demand our attention and comprehension.
“Jobi Bicos: Dragon Guts,� Lubov, 5 East Broadway, #402, New York, NY. Through January 30, 2022.
About the author: Jacob Patrick Brooks is a Brooklyn painter who grew up in Kansas.