Sly, sexual watercolor trysts
Carl Ferrero’s watercolor series “Three Way Tie for Last” at the Kathleen Cullen gallery’s Project Room drags the representation of private sexual escapades into the public space. The exhibition is filled with colorful serial narratives telling the tale of misadventures in gay male promiscuity. His works, which incorporate text and images, are similar to Raymond Pettibon’s works in that they utilize a rough scratch-and-gesture brush mark. There is even some kindred spirit with the works of artists such as early Sue Williams or even David Wojnarowicz’s personal and political narratives. However Ferrero’s quirky imagery and guffaw one-liners are a far cry from Wojnarowicz’s political art-writing of the past. Consider the outrage of Wojnarowicz written just over a decade ago in “Memories That Smell Like Gasoline”—“I wake up every morning in this killing machine called america and I’m carrying this rage like a blood filled egg and there’s a thin line between the inside and the outside a thin line between thought and action and that line is simply made up of blood and muscle and bone and I’m waking up more and more from daydreams of tipping amazonian blowdarts in ‘infected blood’ and spitting them at the exposed necklines of certain politicians or government healthcare officials.”
Ferrero draws and writes upon the fringe, with a comic honesty that is almost embarrassing. His work manages to draw you into the story line with his wonderful use of color; once engaged, the text is easy to grab onto. For example, in one colorful and explicit image of a man fucking another man’s ass titled “Viagra,” the text tucked off to the side of the figures states, “I was staring at his tacky décor the entire night. Thank god for Viagra.” Other cheeky catch phrases include references to “bunker busting”—a code for fist fucking—and a reference to Dick Cheney, pseudonym for an anonymous sexual partner’s online avatar in a chat room. While Ferrero’s text-laden images not as radical as the likes of Wojnarowicz some ten or even twenty years ago, there is something equally freethinking about his work, in that it lulls you into the narrative using the formality of color and a comic book narrative format. The exhibition can literally be read from wall to wall, in a serial manner similar to the comic book styling of Justin Hall’s “True Travel Tales” and “Glamazonia, the Uncanny Supertranny.” Ferrero’s work is able to capture the eye, string along the heart, and make you complicit with a wink and a giggle in a stark and often laugh out loud queer life.