Daryoush Asgar and Elisabeth Gabriel, the Austrian collaborative duo that makes up Asgar/Gabriel, focus of the current Mark Moore Gallery exhibition “Bucolica Obscura,” cites the breadth of art history (with specific nods to Baroque and Abstraction) as influences of the large-scale oil on canvas works of their latest collection. Despite this, the dwellers of their paintings (attractive, scantily clad contemporary twenty-somethings in various states of loungey boredom) seem to speak exclusively to an MTV audience. The figures, who listlessly strum instruments, sneer, pass out, and sip from red plastic party cups are half-heartedly transported to centuries of yore with haphazardly added accessories like Marie Antoinette wigs and photorealistic bouquets that recall those from Flemish still life painting. Perhaps just for chaos’ sake, we also find strange Surreal objects like a giant elephant’s head, dogs, flames, and firearms.
The contemporary accoutrements of the works go beyond their glossy inhabitants. The massive canvases are littered with abundant neon colors showcased by drippy, graffiti-style texts that scream words like “ABYSS” or “EXODUS”, air brushy clouds of bubblegum pink, acid yellow, and tangerine, and psychedelic patterns that aim to enhance the noise of these compositions. The problem with the paintings is not their celebration of the present, but the lack of juxtaposition with the past by which they claim to be equally inspired. Labeling their disjointed narratives “postmodern” only excuses the lack of balance it would require to successfully marry the old and the new. While Asgar/Gabriel likens their work to previous Pop Art icons like Andy Warhol or Jasper Johns, their latest collection does not seem to be a joyous and ironic appreciation of Pop culture, but rather a lackluster, manufactured hodgepodge of the superficial.