Slava Mogutin & Brian Kenny : Beauty and Hell
Snug as a struggle
The first vote is the deepest
I would so cuddle the fuck out of you
Exposing yourself in the window for everyone to see
The only veil under a desolate surface
Skinned for proof
Bros before hose, taut before rot
Tag you're it
From wiggling toes to giggling shins
Reality being too prickly for my lofty character
This almost didn’t happen
No more plans
Daring to breach the surface and sink
Up then down and back again
You leave your skin everywhere
Tickling the fancy freaks
That’s us without any corners
Kings of nothing and everything
I want your hand without the skin, bone to bone without the mold, mouth to mouth without the porn
"Working and living together is both exciting and challenging, and almost impossible at times,” says Slava Mogutin, one half of SUPERM, the ongoing collaboration with Brian Kenny. “BEAUTY & HELL marks eight years of our creative and romantic partnership. After traveling the world together with our work and mounting about a dozen gallery and museum shows in nine countries, we feel fortunate that we’re still able to excite and stimulate each other on so many levels and get our creative juices flowing! "
The exhibition at envoy is divided into two parts. From a twenty-year collection of vintage gay porn comes BEAUTY, a series of twenty-four Skingraph collages created by SUPERM on display at 131 Chrystie Street, running through November 29. The collages, with titles like, “I would so cuddle the fuck out of you,” “This almost didn’t happen,” and “The only veil under a desolate surface,” are made from bodies without heads or genitals drawn from the pages of magazines including Honcho, Torso, Inches, Mandate, and Playguy. The result is a study in patterns of beauty and the aestheticizing of the male form for the male gaze. It is a male as dominant and submissive, of power in all terrain ways.
Mogutin used to shoot for some of these magazines years ago. At the time Honcho was a cult magazine, publishing the likes of Paul McCarthy, Wolfgang Tillmans, Bruce LaBruce, Richard Kern, and even Ross Bleckner. The other magazines offered more standard fare, and as the poses repeat themselves, we are left to consider production quality. Skin tones become energies when placed next to each other. “It’s like fifty shades of grey. It’s fifty shades of gay,” Mogutin jokes.
Because this is a study in the ridiculous, in the somber fetishization of the male form, of the seriousness of both pornography and fine art, both humorless worlds where silliness is seen as cheap or weak or unsexy. But Mogutin and Kenny are anything but that, as “Beauty” allows us to look beneath the surface at the depth of things.
Each image in this series is done in an 11x14 inch format, meticulously handcut and handmounted on canvas panels, with similar composition and style. Each image is organized by certain pose, and what adds to their allure is an element of the invisible. Many of these pieces were created in their West Village studio during hurricane Sandy.
“We were the first ones to lose power, and the last to get it back. It was like the early 90s back in Russia,” says Mogutin, a native Siberian. “Blackouts, food shortages. We were like two old babushkas by candlelight. It was like a meditation: sit and play and solve the puzzle. It’s about color, composition, subject matter, and how they all work together. It’s tranquilizing. It’s like, This is It, Magic! It’s a certain energy that comes from the canvas when it’s ready. It’s tactile, the glue and these tiny pieces. It’s like sculpting, it’s three-dimensional.”
“Beauty” is one half the whole. Mogutin and Kenny have a personal and professional relationship that spans eight years. From their first meeting at a photo shoot in Brooklyn, where Mogutin shot his seminal “Wiggers” series with Kenny as the wigger, looking undeniable. Since then, Mogutin and Kenny have maintained SUPERM alongside independent careers. But with SUPERM, they also offer a platform for collaborations with other artists, emerging and established alike.
In this way, they introduce HELL, a video and performance installation at envoy enterprises new 87 Rivington Street space, from November 29–December 31. HELL features the French pornstar and fashion icon François Sagat reading two poems by Rimbaud in his native tongue. The poems give voice to our anxieties of time, of the way the past, present, and future weigh heavily upon our hearts and minds.
Inspired by the divine Marina Abramovic, Mogutin and Kenny offer their own interpretation of The Artist is Present, making the Rivington gallery their studio for the duration of the exhibition, confirming a line-up of collaborators throughout this period. The interplay between art and life and love is made manifest as Mogutin and Kenny invite us into the creative process. Being open to the public affords both artist and observer a luxury rarely bequeathed, an opportunity for an intimate one-on-one connection that makes the observer a part of the process itself. To kick off HELL in high style, Mogutin will be receiving a chestpiece tattoo, a design done by Kenny and inked by Nick Theobald.
Future events will be announced and the line up promises D.I.Y. vibes that inspire new ideas and energies, and to look at our lives anew. Every day we are here to create something that did not exist until we make it so. SUPERM reminds us that art, like love, like work, like life, is that fine balance between Beauty & Hell.