Acrylic on canvas
24 x 18 inches
Image courtesy of the artist and Gaga Fine Arts, Los Angeles and Mexico City
Julien Ceccaldi (b. 1987, Montreal, Canada) lives and works in New York City. His paintings, sculptures, and comic books present a set of archetypal characters that morph and develop in different iterations of themselves. Gentlemen’s Nest (2021) depicts the character Solito, an emotionally stunted androgynous hermit, sharing a bed with two anonymous, more muscular men. Solito was first introduced in an eponymous exhibition in 2018 at the Kölnischer Kunstverein, accompanied by a comic book viewable in video format, and later developed in a series of paintings exhibited in a 2022 exhibition at Stuart Shave Modern Art in London.
Gentlemen’s Nest alludes to a concupiscent morning with its pastel color palette, soft blending, and Solito’s coy lip bite. This is an atypical scenario for a character initially conceived as an allusion to the fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen, who seemingly died a virgin despite his strong bisexual urges. The conflicted psychological states of Ceccaldi’s characters are manifested through a mannered portrayal of their bodies:
Influenced by the Shōjo manga genre — which focuses on romantic relationships and heightened emotions, Ceccaldi portrays characters as yearning or aspiring in some form or another: for love, sex or success. Attention or affirmation is sought through different means, and Ceccaldi’s world tends to be split into two polarised types of being: hulking, muscular, glowing bodies – aloof targets of sexual and romantic desire – and the unnoticed, exhausted other in this unrequited dyad. Through compositions framing the gaunt, almost repulsive, figure as a lead protagonist, the artist hints at the grace and nobility lying underneath their off-putting traits.
As Whitney Mallet notes, Ceccaldi’s practice examines the body as a set for psychological dramas:
Throughout Ceccaldi’s work, especially his comics, there’s a sincere desire to exteriorize (and maybe also to exorcise) psychic interiority…The desire to externalize and express is compulsive and the result often cathartic but it’s not without stress and strain. And the body is often where this conflict manifests….The feedback loop of living and retelling lets you find agency in situations where you’ve relinquished control. The body becomes both invaluable and totally disposable, the medium for transcendent experiences and a mere prop in an absurd theater of love and misery.
Ceccaldi typically displays his paintings in a theatrical environment including sculptural elements such as punching bags and mannequins. In a 2021 show at Jenny’s and LOMEX, Ceccaldi included numerous skeleton mannequins clothed in a mashup of contemporary hipster and Victorian decadent styles.
Here we find a petrification of affect that instinctually seems related to the increasingly close relationship between corporate branding schemes and “countercultural cool.” In lieu of critiquing this process through strategic reversals, however, Ceccaldi hyperbolizes its effects, offering a panoply of actors too drained, demented, or stupid for recuperation.
Gaga Fine Arts