There are eighteen paintings in Mathieu Malouf’s Toxic Masculinity Fallout Shelter, his first solo show at Greene Naftali. The paintings—made with different materials including oil, acrylic, silkscreen ink, glitter, and one mushroom—depict various entries in the current US nuclear inventory as well as public figures like Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner, Beatrix Ruf, Stefan Kalmár, and the Grinch.
The nexus of all this activity is found in two vaguely gendered sculptures placed on opposite sides of the main room. One is a 50’s-style military fallout shelter containing hazardous materials extracted from the topical paradigm of contemporary masculinity and on the other, an extremely complex psychedelic multimedia bathroom stall loosely based on the decoration inside a powder room at the Wing, a women-only social club located in Flatiron which the (cis male) artist can not visit in person.
The works were churned out by the artist and one assistant over a period of just under 4 weeks in a frenzied state of expressionistic trance, mindless in all aspects other than it remained mindful of intercultural imports. Like people, some of them are visually appealing, smart and funny while others feel really wrong—not in a good way. They land like a thud and have no humor. All characters and events in this show—even those based on real people—are entirely fictional. All celebrities are impersonated… poorly. Due to its content, it should not be viewed by anyone.
Malouf’s paintings ventriloquize their subjects, bringing in vernaculars from pop art, post-capitalist realist German painting, and internet art without committing to any one particular strategy. Certain subjects’ visages are rendered fairly precisely; some are granulated, as if from a Photoshop mistake; others are depicted through absence and negative space. Some paintings project outwards physically with glitter; others, optically with Ben-Day dots. Most of them picture, or at least imply, one of several distinct types of violence, the types of violence that we believe to be encoded in an earlier time but persist both publicly and privately, abetted by those in power in all spheres.