curated by Monika Fabijanska for The Culture Club
Tampering with childhood fantasies, Western mythology and Eastern spirituality, Dan Bainbridge creates mixed-media objects, installations, assemblages, and performances employing his animated objects, music, and collaboration with other artists.
He makes toy-like animals that on a closer examination appear increasingly bizarre. His menagerie reminds of a medieval bestiary where no distinction was made between species native to Europe, exotic animals, and imaginary beings. For his 2017 solo exhibition, Bainbridge created sculptural works that were interactive and meant to be played with the help of unitars. The audience could stroke and pluck the instruments’ primitive single strings attached to the animal sculptures by electrical umbilical cords. The suspended whale, the hyena bust, the pig drum – these musical sculptures set the stage for a performance.
There is something deeply unsettling about Bainbridge’s inscrutable creatures. They are seemingly vulnerable and repulsive at the same time. The artist uses grotesque to convey melancholy, but we also sense lurking evil, covert eroticism, and latent cruelty. A recurring motif in his work, Monkey Mop Boy is a figure of exploitation straddling the murky ground between innocence and evil. Possibly the artist’s alter ego, the Boy insinuates himself into other works and since 2009 is prominently featured in the artist’s performances.
The hybrid and ominous character of Dan Bainbridge’s works, the tension between physical nature of the materials and the subject, as well as the connection he makes between toys and exploitation, situate his work within the tradition of critique of American society by such artists as Mike Kelley or Paul McCarthy and evoke specifically American nightmares.
Dan Bainbridge, b. 1976 in Dubuque, IA, lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He graduated with MFA in Studio Art from the Illinois State University in Normal, IL (2006), where he had several exhibitions. Bainbridge had two solo shows at the ART3 gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2015, 2017) and presented three elaborate performances there. His works have been featured in many group shows, including Casino Cabaret, Safe Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, 2016, Pyramid Scheme curated by Nat Ward, Brooklyn, 2014, and The Librarians, Queens College Art Center, Queens, NY, 2013. He co-founded collectives Monkey Mop Boy and French Neon.
Monika Fabijanska is an art historian with over 15 years’ experience in curating, producing, and managing arts in New York City. She specializes in international contemporary art and has special interest in women's art and feminist art. She is currently working on the exhibition The Un-Heroic Act. Representations of Rape in Contemporary Women’s Art in the US at the Shiva Gallery at John Jay College for Criminal Justice, CUNY (fall 2018).
Photo: Dan Bainbridge's performance accompanying his exhibition Bestiary, ART3 Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, June 13, 2015© Dan Bainbridge 2015, photo Monika Fabijanska