TimeOut New York: Barnaby Furnas, "Works on Paper"

Marianne Boesky

A version of this review appeared in TimeOut New York:

Guns blazing, Barnaby Furnas returns for his second solo show at Marianne Boesky with 36 works on paper that offer a spectacle of guts, glory and the occasional orgy.

In colors archetypal of today's print media, Furnas obsesses (and rightfully so) on issues of political paranoia, personal excess and the seemingly resolute, national impulse to self-destruction. Shady operatives lurk in the tall reeds; they twirl their guns.  In the works, bacchanals play out on a stage representing the world; with all the blood and flesh, the depiction is part orgy, part bloodbath. Other works depict battle extravaganzas of Homeric Proportions. In aptly title works, soldiers, and others, are “Blown To Bits.” Themes of vanity and violence are consistently present in the show; to Furnass, a rock concert is as much a blood cult as anything else.

With the present global situation-terrorism, rampant Religiousity—equations of violence and ecstasy become particularly compelling. Furnas’s ecstasy, which can be sexual or fanatical, is paired with blood-splattering violence: a corollary which is, as they say, right on target. But Furnas's false prophets are not bunkered deep in deserts. They are rock stars and U.S. politicians. Honest Abe, the most lauded of all U.S. presidents, earns the ire of Furnas's brush. As Furnas portrays Lincoln worshipped by faceless masses, the ominous scene begs the question: And what about the Civil War? Was all that bloodshed really necessary? Perhaps, suggests Furnas, that is a part of the American psyche: the will to unnecessary war. Lincoln, in the second to last work in the show, shoots off his own head.