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James Unsworth

Girth and Mirth

Preview: Thursday, 28 June, 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Exhibition: 29 June - 8 September 2018
Opening Times: Thu - Sat, 11:00am - 5:00pm

Location: Abject Gallery, 8th Floor, Bamburgh House  

Abject Gallery is pleased to present James Unsworth’s exhibition, “Girth and Mirth”.

Unsworth’s works are characterized by direct, hyperbolic and intense depictions of corporal scenes combined with elements culled from popular visual culture. These elements are mostly connected to consumerism and capitalism, body, sexuality and death, as well as to subcultures such as comics, cartoons, junk food and pornography.

In “Girth and Mirth” (a word pair that is a pun describing a gay subculture of large men, referencing a group/club by the same name, initiated in the 1970s), Unsworth presents two new series of works, one is a series of collages, based on photographs taken from erotic gay magazines for heavy men, on the surface of which the artist applies fruit and flower imagery – images that are large, enticing and colourful, that also reference pejorative terms used toward gay men (“fruit,” “pansies”), ascribing to them feminine characteristics as derisible features. The second series in comprised of grotesque pencil-on-paper drawings, which are based on the same magazine images, elaborating them and thereby expanding their reach into other arenas of pop visual culture. Like previous works by Unsworth, the works displayed in this exhibition point their arrows at the contemporary economy of restraints, which draws clear and oppressive boundaries regarding both sex and body size. Both these arenas, which society holds as criteria for self-control, are already challenged by the images Unsworth uses as the ground for his works (erotic and pornographic images from niche magazines). But the artist adds to that by exaggerating, elaborating and expanding the images in a way that grants them an enlarged presence, turning the tables and debunking conventional judgment. It is important to note Unsworth’s complex mode of operation, which leaves no stone unturned regarding the oppressive nature of the visual regimes enveloping us, while offering a new, festive and liberated possibility that is full of life.

A version of “Girth and Mirth” made its international debut at the RawArt Gallery in Tel Aviv in December 2017, gaining both nationwide TV coverage and nationwide print press.

Artist Biography
James Unsworth studied Fine Art at Winchester School of Art and the Royal College of Art. After graduating, he was a print fellow of the Royal Academy of Art. He has undertaken residencies in the UK, France and Czech Republic. His work has been included in Museum shows in the UK, Canada and USA. His first two books of drawings have been republished six times and he’s had three cease and desist letters from VIACOM. His movies have had over 1000000 views on YouTube. Last year he received Arts Council England/British Council funding to research the origins of Girth and Mirth movements in the USA.

Unsworth researches the history of popular print from its origins in the 15th Century to the comic books, pornography and ephemera of the 21st Century. He is especially interested in the grotesque (and other combinations of incongruous elements), carnivalesque, and inversion. He expresses these themes using images of fat/queer bodies. Mainly working across drawing, collage, costume making, photography and moving image, he uses these varying mediums to communicate the spirit of popular print. Humour and sexuality are important elements in his work which explores the grotesque life cycle of birth, sex and death.

This exhibition is also part of the Curious Festival and will also be open as part of the Vogue Ball on Saturday 7th July 5pm – 9pm.

James Unsworth - Bulk Male Flower Collage 48 James Unsworth - Bulk Male Flower Collage 38 James Unsworth - Bulk Male Flower Collage 20 James Unsworth: Girth and Mirth (photo by Michael McGuire) James Unsworth: Girth and Mirth (photo by Michael McGuire) James Unsworth: Girth and Mirth (photo by Michael McGuire) Click an image to see more