Bureau presents Lionel Maunz’s fifth solo exhibition with the gallery, In the Sewer of Your Body.
Maunz conjures the gallery as a field of cruelty and degradation where corporeal depravity and the untenable pain of consciousness collide. Anatomical graphite drawings compliment figures rendered in formidable cast iron, enclosed within steel and glass constructions. These architectural structures are Maunz’s most complex and accomplished to date; conflating confinement with display, his figures are hemmed-in and laid bare as brazenly suffering bodies.
Following Maunz’s 2017 solo, The Discovery of Honey at the Contemporary Austin, this exhibition builds upon the artist’s previous bodies of work indicting and reveling in the coercive structures of the family. Here Maunz scrutinizes the tenets of Calvinism and ideas of anti-natalism, compacting the indignities of corporeal existence with the torment of consciousness. For Maunz, the tenets of Calvinism describe a hatred of the flesh as they outline the unbreakable enslavement of the body to sin, the absence of free-will and the relish of universal damnation. Anti-natalism argues against procreation, describing the pain associated with coming into existence, the torture of awareness and the psychological burden of mortality. As Sophocles’s chorus declared in Oedipus at Colonus, ‘not to be born is, beyond all estimation, best’.
Maunz’s practice mines these ideas through exceptional physical portrayals of depravity. The power of human bondage – over beast and man alike – is exposed through studies of bodies in agony, torture and failure. The centerpiece of the exhibition is a bound and mutilated man, low within the confines of an imposing steel chamber. Maunz captures the rapturous and agonized movement of the violated man, through the unforgiving material of cast iron. Nearby, a decomposing boy lies atop a gleaming mortuary slab flanked by gynecological restraints on his left and at right, an architectural outline of the subterranean lair where Josef Fritzl imprisoned his daughter and their children. Two works in the exhibition feature renderings of Dürer’s polyhedron from the Melancholia engraving. One, cast in iron, is degrading; its geometric purity melting, beside the Fritzl model; the other drawn in graphite is imprisoned behind a sewer grate. Here we see the polyhedron, a symbol of reason, eroded and corrupted.
In the Sewer of Your Body catalyzes a collapsing of life into beginning and ending, positing a refusal of origin, of birth, and presenting a cruel vision of termination. The exhibition, while horrific in its details entices the viewer to marvel, and consider such captivating conviction: a body of work and a practice so resolutely willed to promote a singular vision and philosophy of ruin.
Lionel Maunz (b. 1976, lives and works in New York NY) received his BFA and MFA degrees from the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. Solo exhibitions include The Contemporary Austin, TX, 2017; MoMA PS1, NY, 2016; Fealty, 2016, Deluge, 2014, Receipt of Malice, 2012, and Wail Eternal Scorn of Geologic, 2010 all Bureau, New York. Selected group exhibitions include: Dead Eden, Lyles & King, NY (forthcoming); pər-ˈsō-nae, Klemm’s, Berlin; Lamerica, Bible, NY; Omul Negru, Cantacuzino Palace, Bucharest, Romania, Greater New York, MoMA PS1; Rotrixagatze, On Stellar Rays; New Hells, Derek Eller Gallery; and Gallery Loyal, Malmö. In 2009 he was a participating artist in Mirror Me organized by Kai Althoff and Brandon Stosuy at Dispatch, NYC. His works are in the permanent collection of the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, the Museum of Modern Art, NY and the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)