Kojo Griffin. (Reviews)

By Miller, Francine Koslow | Artforum International, September 2002 | Go to article overview

Kojo Griffin. (Reviews)


Miller, Francine Koslow, Artforum International


MILLER BLOCK GALLERY

Atlanta-based artist Kojo Griffin continues his meditation on human bestiality in the fourteen mixed-media paintings and works on paper in his first solo show in Boston, where he grew up. Here the boldly colored backgrounds and mystical calligraphy surrounding his menagerie of animal-headed people and personified rag dolls in the works seen at the 2000 Whitney Biennial were replaced with muted color fields lightly penciled with patterns suggestive of DNA helices and chemical or mechanical diagrams. As before, though, apparently innocent anthropomorphic teddy bears, donkeys, elephants, and button-faced cloth dolls with human bodies portray the darker side of human interactions, casually performing political executions, making time bombs, shredding documents, and engaging in illicit eroticism. Unlike Art Spiegelman's Maus, in which oppressed and oppressor are signified by specific animal species (Jews are mice, Nazis cats), Griffin's art relies on ambiguity; only the suggested narrative situation determines who is villain or victim.

Just as Griffin's imagery combines animal and man, his large panels merge pattern painting, drawing, and collage. The hybrid figures, initially drawn in charcoal on paper, are cut out, arranged, and pasted onto a quiltlike abstract ground, shaded and painted in oil; each character is rendered in a single identifying color, and the reduced monochromatic effect evokes a child's Color-Form set. In Untitled (Man with Explosive Device, Man with Box), 2002, a purple man with a panda's head sits at a table adjusting the timer on a bomb, while a horse-headed orange accomplice prepares a box for it. The largest and most ambitious panel painting, Untitled (Man with Gun, Man on Ground, Men with Blindfold), 2000, takes as its points of departure Goya's Third of May, 1808, 1814, and Manet's The Execution of Emperor Maximilian, 1867, to portray the execution of three animal-headed men. …

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