Go ahead and walk into the Alexandre Hogue Gallery in Phillips Hall sometime between now and February 18th—I dare you. The prints you’ll find lining the walls are unquestionably disgusting: cross-eyed, gap-toothed figures violate and maim each other, with religious and commercial imagery interspersed. The scenes are offensive, self-indulgent, crass and beautifully intoxicating.
These are the “Evil Prints” of Tom Huck, and despite the extremely pervasive vulgarity, there’s a sense of legitimacy afforded by his meticulous craftsmanship and satirical edge.
Consider the enormous centerpiece of the show: “The Transformation of Brandy Baghead,” a triptych which took nearly five years to complete. Huck described his inspiration for the piece in last Thursday’s lecture at Phillips Hall as stemming from a reality show called “The Swan,” featuring “ugly” women working with the help of plastic surgeons to succeed in beauty pageants. “Brandy Baghead” is then the story of a rural woman selected to undergo a barbarous surgery, transforming her into a human-chicken hybrid star.
The final panel of the triptych displays Brandy, complete with beak and feathers, skating in the KFC-sponsored pageant. It’s all visually dense to the point that another detail can be found on each subsequent viewing. Generally, those details serve to make the scene even more disturbing.
However, not all of the works in the exhibition were necessarily as conceptual. His “Evil Death Bugz,” for instance, are much simpler, and serve as something more along the lines of cheaply available promotional material, and this reflects an important point Huck delivered in his lecture.
As he sees it, there is not a clear distinction between high and low art. Among his largest influences, Huck included not only classic printmakers like Daumier, Albrecht Dürer or George Cruikshank, but classic rock and metal outfits like KISS, Frank Zappa and Motörhead as well.
You can equally expect to find Huck’s work in the Whitney or in hard rock concert posters.
Even if the prints in Alexandre Hogue are in some ways decidedly hard to look at, Huck’s rejection of established art world pretensions is very refreshing to see. If you can stomach it, it’s well worth taking a look.