Get ready to wash your mouth out with soap: “Dirty Words” at VICTORI+MO brings together the work of two artists who remember when it was cool to be bad. In collaboration with Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, Joe Nanashe and Michael Scoggins display drawings, paintings, and detritus that harken back to their school days.
Making work under their juvenile pseudonyms “Joe” and “Michael S.,” Nanashe and Scoggins display scraps of profanity-covered paper, pages from coloring books that depict political figures, and childlike paintings. Scoggins’s notebook-paper scrawlings of works like Unintelligible (“You are a dillhole,” “You are a fartknocker,” etc.) and Fuckerty (both 2015) capture the small-minded insults characteristic of schoolyard quarrels, with a sense of poignance. The specificity and intensity of each note points toward the seeds of hatred that are planted at an early age. This concept is explicitly suggested in It Daydreams like there’s nothing wrong in the World. It can Afford too. (2015), which depicts a young Ku Klux Klan member happily lounging in a smiley-face shirt.
Other works take a more tongue-in-cheek approach to demonstrate how immature minds may conflate a porn-influenced understanding of sexuality with more advanced emotions of love or devotion. In Second Coming (2015), a prepubescent Ed Ruscha fuses sex with religiosity by floating the scrawled words over a sky-like backdrop; in Full Penetration, bubble-letters are outlined thousands of times in pink pen to illustrate the obsessive nature of desire.
Each of these objects is weathered and disguised to give it the aura of being “found”—something that could have been a note passed in any classroom across America. Nanashe and Scoggins seem to delight in the diversion and roguish racket incited by their alternate personas, but their bad-boy attitudes mask a more calculated critique: “Dirty Words” plainly and effectively allegorizes the ways in which nihilism, misogyny, and callousness learned in childhood can, unfortunately, be carried on into adult life.
“Dirty Words” is on view at VICTORI+MO, New York City, Jun. 26–Jul. 31, 2015.
Stefan Sagmeister: What is Happiness