201 Chrystie Street
A modern day renaissance man, prolific artist, writer, and musician Billy Childish truly embraces and encompasses the expression “walking to the beat of his own drum.” Over thirty-five years of continual creative activity, Childish has gained a cult status world-wide, writing and publishing over forty volumes of confessional poetry, recording over one hundred LPs, and painting several hundred works, all the while refusing to conform to the contemporary art world’s standards and placed importance on the market. As a poet, novelist, and painter, Childish has explored throughout his work, and often with a startling honesty, his struggles in coming to terms with addiction, abuse, and a childhood spent in a dysfunctional family setting. Presented in two sections, curator Matthew Higgs highlights Childish’s recent body of work and places it alongside his music, literary and polemical projects. The first section of the exhibition focuses on the artist’s recent paintings that depict volcanoes and mountain-climbing scenes, influenced by the last climb of mountaineer Toni Kurz. These works will are juxtaposed with paintings of pastoral landscapes such as “Sibelius Amongst Saplings.” The exhibition continues upstairs with a survey of the artist’s music and literary projects, including fifty of Childish’s albums and a collection of poems and books written by the artist.
Childish unashamedly acknowledges his artistic, musical and literary lineage – springing from the Punk movement of 1977 he has cited and aligned himself within a tradition of visionary heroes: Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, Dada and Kurt Schwitters – his recent paintings include portraits of the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, tribal leader Spotted Elk in death at Wounded Knee and the legendary German mountaineer Toni Kurz, as well as Helmet divers and a series of landscape paintings each depicting an erupting volcano. Persistently aligning his own identity with these singular historical subjects, Childish’s recent paintings might be read as an expanded form of self-portraiture, and display what curator Matthew Higgs has identified as “an economy and directness that is analogous to the fundamental nature of his poetry and stripped-down, blues-inspired music. Childish seeks to explore – in all his work – those aspects of his own life that are both essential and universal. Eschewing contemporary mannerisms and modes of production, even down to his dandyish attire, Childish instead privileges seemingly anachronistic aesthetic and literary styles, to create works – in painting, music and literature – that are somehow, and paradoxically, timeless and radical.”