Cheim & Read is pleased to present two new exhibitions, Diane Arbus: Untitled and Cumwizard69420: The Americans, at the gallery’s Chelsea location, 547 West 25th Street, New York. The shows open on January 12, 2023, and run through March 18. The Americans is Cumwizard’s first solo exhibition in New York.
Cumwizard69420 describes himself on his personal website as a “former economics and math student” who took his first and only art class, Intro to Drawing and Painting, before dropping out of college in 2019. After a stint as a food delivery driver, he started painting again in 2020 and has since created a remarkable body of boldly colored, fearlessly explicit paintings and watercolors.
Drawing from the media multiverse of TV shows, movies, and the internet, Cumwizard casts a penetrating eye on the inflated egos and self-delusions raging through our celebrity-obsessed culture. And yet these images, which are often unnerving and frequently grotesque, are also generously human, laced with affection and humor. As Als wrote about Arbus’s Untitled photographs, they “don’t feel exploitative in the least, because they are filled with love and discipline.”
The name of the exhibition, The Americans, mirrors the title of the influential photography book by Robert Frank, one of Arbus’s predecessors in the candid depiction of life in the United States. The difference is that Frank, like Arbus, shined a light on ordinary citizens, while Cumwizard’s subjects are busy shining a light on themselves, creating a new kind of social landscape. Rather than appropriating such self-owns at face value, the artist transforms their imagery into the language of paint, layering them with personal themes and references to art history, the movies, and, as he told an interviewer on the website Insufficient Fare, “things that make me laugh.”