FIERMAN presents A Queer Divine Dissatisfaction (a blessed unrest), a solo exhibition by Chuck Nanney, his first in New York since 2003.  The show is comprised of sculptural paintings on wood in irregular and organic shapes. The paintings are colorful and abstract with a cheerful sensibility, adorned with gold leaf and rhinestones, simultaneously showy and humble talismans of Nanney’s pyschic cosmos. The shapes often reference the body – tongues, cocks, legs – and hang at varied heights around the gallery, engendering a sensory interaction that is at once visual and disarmingly physical. The metal door hinges that affix the paintings to the walls contrast their playfulness with a sado-masochistic edge.  The gallery itself is entirely painted in Pepto-Bismol pink, for Nanney the “perfect healing pink,” queerly confounding the pop of the paintings with the deeply felt sense of the delicate human body. The queerness lies in the works’ sincerity, its insistence on existing despite its frailties and imperfections, and as such embeds it within Nanney’s lived experience as an HIV positive gay man coming of age in the 1980’s. 

In the new work Nanney continues the threads long established in his work in the 1980’s and ‘90’s of queer alchemy, simple materials and slight gestures, and the inescapable realness of the body. At the now iconic Bad Girls exhibition curated by Marcia Tucker at the New Museum (1994), Nanney showed a suite of photographs entitled Dress Code, self-portraits in various sartorial clichés, a poor man’s Cindy Sherman with the same long hair and goatee in each photo, alluding not to Sherman’s mutability of identity but to the inability to transcend one’s physical skin.  His tree branch stretched, car-paint monochromatic paintings of the early 1990’s similarly insist upon an unresolvable tension between the sublime and the earthly.  While the titles of his works and exhibitions often cannily reference cultural history– “a queer divine dissatisfaction” is a Martha Graham quote, and he has frequently presented the title card from the 1958 Susan Hayward melodrama I Want to Live! – the work itself remains grounded in the artist’s own psychological intuition.  

Chuck Nanney (b. 1958, Memphis, TN, lives and works in Oakland, CA) has exhibited widely in the United States and Europe starting in the early 1980’s with recent solo shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tucson, and Jenny’s, Los Angeles.  Prior solo shows include Debs & Co., New York; Galerie Patrick Seguin, Paris; among others.