With a surrealness likened to Bruegel or Bosch, Rob Thom’s latest series of paintings, Viscera Americana, celebrates the absurdities and vulgarities of everyday life in America.
During a time of social distancing, his work offers a unique and timely perspective, especially when we’re so fearful of crowds and density and closeness now equate to reckless behaviour. You could say he casts a funhouse mirror on familiar media images, skewing the scene to compel us to pause and consider what is actually happening. It’s almost as though his frenzied yet banal scenes are on the edge of chaos.
In Community Pool, for example, the normality of enjoying a warm day now brings into acute focus the negative connotations of overcrowdedness. While in House of Tarnation, Thom freezes the turning point of a backyard wrestling calamity – a fighter suspends mid-dive from a tall ladder. At the same time, another is about to get pummeled in a piledriver. Something here seems “off” or just plain wrong. In the background, guests or neighbours casually look on, sipping drinks, unconcerned with violence or societal norms.
The paintings are timeless, untethered to any particular moment in history because of Thom’s use of a warm, yellowed palette. This approach suggests there’s a timelessness to human perplexity and failings – as in, we never seem to learn. The wavy limbs and hyperbolic bellies of Thom’s characters only add to the chaos and vulgarity. If there are rules to live by, then they are certainly not being practised in this community.
Viscera Americana by Rob Thom opens at Anna Zorina Gallery in New York City on 29 October and runs until 12 December 2020.
Untitled © Rob Thom
Pancakes © Rob Thom
A Beast! © Rob Thom
Community Pool © Rob Thom
Untitled (Runners in Park) © Rob Thom
The Way Out © Rob Thom
Salutations © Rob Thom
Faux Hokusai Cooldown © Rob Thom