Andy Kolar’s penises are a hoot. First, there are a lot of them, often bound together in bunches. Second, they come in a rainbow of colors — pastels and dark reds and purples. They are painted and sculptural, sewn out of fabric or cut from plywood. At Walter Maciel Gallery in L.A., all four rooms are graced with their presence, which manages to be both silly and sad.
To be fair, they aren’t really body parts. They are organic shapes, longer than they are wide, with a rounded tip, sometimes two. They are not anatomically correct and might be said to have scatological associations. They are much more than a body part.
In paintings, the shapes most often appear bound together, like a bundle of sticks, archaically known by the same word used as a slur against gay men. The overlap between this motif and the slur cannot be a coincidence. In repeatedly depicting this bundle, Kolar makes a veiled reference to homophobia but also to a kind of closeness, a banding together of like shapes.
The shapes also appear in sculptural form, housed in a couple of small plywood rooms with openings so that viewers can peek inside. Painted in various hues on the interior, the boxes are like three-dimensional paintings. Kolar’s shapes stand mutely inside, as if waiting for something to happen. They stop being objects and start feeling like figures, and the works make us aware of our voyeurism in a way the paintings do not.
It’s no wonder Kolar seems obsessed with this oblong shape; he’s hit on an image so basic it alternately evokes body part, foodstuff, excrement and figure.
In the largest sculpture, “Move It, Move It,” an enormous shape made of fabric is suspended horizontally from a scaffold and pulley as if it were an I-beam on a construction site. Below, similar shapes in purple and blue wait their turn. Comic absurdity rises from this scenario. But there’s also something passive and a bit sad, something that belies, indeed undoes stereotypes and the expectations of men, active and upright. Here, the shapes are horizontal and inert — supported, secured, even cradled.
Walter Maciel Gallery, 2642 S. La Cienega Blvd., L.A. Through Aug. 19; closed Sundays and Mondays. (310) 839-1840, www.waltermacielgallery.com