LAURA KRIFKA [on] CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

SURFING, PISS AND DEATH

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Peek-A-Pee-Pee-Boo Mohamet Visits the Taj Mahal, Egg tempera on panel, 11” x 12.25”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

There is something superbly disarming about the way urine looks when it is painted in tempera. Christopher Ulivo paints arcs of piss with intense unforgiving yellow. He splashes it across the bodies of figures and into the atmosphere of the painting. To be fair, there is a history of urine arcs that Ulivo taps into—one thinks of Lorenzo Lotto’s Venus and Cupid- the humor and sense of surprise are the same but the potential meanings of the two fracture upon comparison. Both paintings are funny, but Ulivo’s are not light-hearted. Underneath the history mash ups and pop star icons there is a leering ghoulishness to the figures as they copulate, murder, seduce and pop a surprising amount of boners at one another.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Venus and Cupid, Lorenzo Lotto (Italian, Venice ca. 1480–1556 Loreto)

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Venus and Cupid, Detail, Lorenzo Lotto

Ulivo’s recent body of work was shown at the Santa Barbara Museum of Contemporary Art in a small, darkly painted room with an elaborately patterned floor. This darkened room created a womb-like viewing chamber, or maybe even a sneak peak into Plato’s Cave. Each painting is small, measuring around twelve inches, and their humble size pulls you in like a vacuum before delivering a sucker punch to your brain.  They read as single framed parables and nursery rhyming murder scenes, sci-fi flicks and surreal dreamscapes.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

studio installation view, Christopher Ulivo

In Peek-A-Pee-Pee-Boo Mohamet Visits the Taj Mahal, the tropes of East and West clash in a piss fight, all for the pleasure of a turban clad peeping tom who lowers his pants for his own caresses. Here man and horse alike demean, the combined force of their urine topples a boy onto his back, essentially pinning him to the ground by unforgiving streams of disrespect and humiliation. The painting is uncomfortable but it is also funny. This is one of the successes of Ulivo’s painting. When I describe them verbally they sound perverted and cruel, when I encounter them visually I giggle and shake my head.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Surf Legends: Elagabalus Moon Beam Round Table Paddle-Out 2010, egg tempera on panel, 13” x 15″, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

Ulivo balances the humor and absurdity of his show with a keen sense of pacing as a storyteller. There are crescendos of violence and oddities, but also pauses and bridges in the form of subtle and mysterious paintings such as Surf Legends: Elagabalus Moon Beam Round Table Paddle-Out 2010. These “pauses” not only support the paintings around them, but they make a viewer aware of our own desire to seek out the strange when it is suddenly denied to us. There is a sense of cultish mystery in the circling surfers, a playfulness in composition and storytelling that reads as more of a caress than a snarl. It invites you in, before leaving you vulnerable to the tides of piss, blood and laughter that Ulivo threatens to drown us in.

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Spy Posing As Geisha Murdering Gen. Lee In A Brothel 1862!, egg tempera on panel, 27″ X 20″, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Surf Legends: Silver Tom Shreds Through The Pillars of Hercules!, egg tempera on panel, 5”x 7”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Ghost Cat And Gorgeous George Battle in The House of Clocks, egg tempera on panel, 13.5″ 11″, {2010} Christopher Ulivo

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO

Hooper On The Case at the Caravan Park Park Outside Swansea, egg tempera on panel, 10.75” x 10”, {2013} Christopher Ulivo

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS

CHRISTOPHER ULIVO: {Born in Brooklyn during the fateful summer of 1977, it is likely Ulivo’s first sights were of a son of sam shooting, the great blackout and the filming of Saturday Night Fever.} He received his MFA from RISD, where he then continued to teach. He now lives and works in Brooklyn.

LAURA KRIFKA: Krifka received her MFA from the University of California at Santa Barbara. She is represented by CB1 Gallery Los Angeles as well as BravinLee Projects New York. She currently resides in Ventura, California where she continues to paint and sculpt, often simultaneously.

Post Navigation