Seven Deadly Sins

Located on 6th Street in downtown Racine, the Racine Arts Council (RAC) is a small professional gallery that isn’t focused on sales, but rather features edgy contemporary art by local artists. RAC’s current show,“Sin: 7 Deadly +: New Work by Gary Wolfe and Jonny Naugahyde,” is particularly good.

Gary Wolfe, Envy, 2011. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

With the seven deadly sins as it’s focus, references to the human body and the weaknesses of the flesh are everywhere in this show. Gary Wolfe’s sculptural furniture—each piece is devoted to a specific cardinal sin—takes the show.  Envy is a strange shelving unit that stands upright, with the help of a pair of rickety crutches, like a headless figure. For Wolfe, “envy” seems to a broken man, so empty inside that he can never feel full or whole.

Gary Wolfe, Gluttony, 2011. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

Gluttony is a slim vertical cabinet encased in an enormous blob of dirty yellow beeswax standing awkwardly on three thick wooden legs.  Anger is an uninviting chair painted in putrid green; it’s rigid seat angled in such a way that it is impossible to sit comfortably on.

Gary Wolfe, Anger, 2011. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

Greed is represented by a hoe  with a long, scorched tree branch for a handle. On one end of this implement is the thin metal blade that makes it a hoe. On the other end there is a box containing chunks of coal and a disgusting glue-like substance. What does this mean? Wolfe’s hoe is a gardening tool that does not cultivate, rather it consumes and ruins everything that it tills. To be sure these constructions are more sculpture than furniture, but more than anything they are reminiscent of medieval instruments of torture. Each is designed to fit or to be used by the human body, but unlike furniture which pleases the eye and comforts the body, Wolfe’s sculptures look like dungeon torture racks, guillotines or electric chairs and suggest the idea of the body in pain.

Gary Wolfe, Greed, 2011. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

Johnny Naugahyde, Untitled works in mixed media. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

Johnny Naugahyde, Pink Haiku, spray paint on canvas, 2011. Currently on view at Racine Arts Council.

Johnny Naugahyde’s collages of paper, fabric, and found objects make a nice contemporary counterpoint to Wolfe’s medievalisms.  Naugahyde’s focus is the sin of lust, represented in his work by playboy bunny logos, references to one-night stands, massage therapy, and dating trophies. The idea of  “woman as the object of the male gaze” comes across in the artist’s frequent use of the target icon. I particularly like the way that Naugahyde weaves references to cultural stereotypes of masculinity and femininity throughout his installations with pictures of astronauts, soldiers, and the repeated image of disney’s little princess.  “Sin: 7 Deadly +” is not to be missed. It comes down August 7th.

About Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs is the director of galleries and curator of exhibitions at Jamestown Community College in Western New York. She writes the blog "Scene Unseen: Viewing Notes" about visual art in her community.

6 Responses to Seven Deadly Sins

  1. Anna says:

    What is sloth like? A recliner that swallows the sitter?

  2. Sloth is a small cabinet lined with snake skin. It is lifted by a pulley up off the ground. The cabinet is suspended mid way between the ground and the top of the pulley. I think the idea is that the job is left undone.

  3. Tavis says:

    How about an art piece representing the acceptance of these traits as part of every human being, being human, instead of the extreeme idea that these depict? That would be nice.

    • This is an interesting point. At first I thought that Wolfe’s work was ironic, and to a large extent it is, but he does seem to take these sins pretty seriously. His work has a sincerity that makes the viewer believe in the world it portrays. That makes for a pretty dark view of the world.

  4. Laurie MacKellar says:

    I’m not seeing this sincerity or the dark view of the world. I love these pieces. He is taking furniture, ordinary objects that frame our lives and give us support and reworking them into these abstract concepts that are well-known, that have a long history in Western culture, that are inextricably inked with religiosity and Catholicism and Western notions of good and evil. I love the fat cabinet – it looks like the blobs of fat that you see in fitness centers.

  5. jerry belland says:

    It’s great that the RAC puts on shows like this.

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