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There are two types of bad boys. The bad boys who want to be known as bad boys, and the boys who are too bad to be bad boys. The seven (or eight if you include an omnipresent Damien Hirst) artists exhibiting as a part of Bad Boys were considered not because their work portrayed some bad boy images, but because they, as an artist, portrayed a particular persona. They represent both ends of the bad boy spectrum.

A kind of re-invention or re-creation of the author exists through the role of the Bad Boy. Can a bad boy still exist, or have the all the taboos surrounding them been eroded through the bombardment of bad New York cop shows or Bukowski idolatry? Is the triumph of a patriarchal modernism still present in the ideology of the bad boy, or did that too evaporate as the co-option of modernism into the everyday ended art and fulfilled Baudrillard’s fantasies?

When the author/character disappeared (Van Gogh and his temperamental temper, or Pollock and his alcohol induced catharsis) the image of individual character shrunk back, and art objects existed within a sense of stasis, in and of itself. Instead of the artists sleight of hand being influenced by their mean mood or ill repute, the piece of art in question became far removed from it’s maker. The reputation of the artists in Bad Boys preceded the work that they were showing.

Nat Koyama watches re-runs of a sexualized 90s teen dream – the TV screen shows Kurt Cobain playing one of the last concerts before the shit hit the fan. As though crystallized in that moment, Cobain, rabid and writhing, vents the frustrations of an over-his-teens adult stuck in a young mans situation, as his eyes scope the crowd like a rabid dog. These are surreal moments that trigger Koyama’s fetishistic drawings.

Jasmin Coleman’s work draws on a minimalist/modernist ideology of rationality. Retrieving found and small objects from construction sites, Coleman configures these “artifacts” in an Ikea like perspex shelving unit, trying to gain some sort of logic that the world refuses. Similarly, Patrick King reconfigures chaos, scavenging materials that have been abandoned, and forming them into makeshift cubby holes or abodes. Like a young boy building a city that he believes will become an empire, King imagines a site that reflects an instinctual state of collapse. Survive or D.I.Y.

What happens to the bad boy persona once it’s stripped away? Are all bad boys just impersonators? Andrew Ford explores the Bad Boy image through literary mores. Narrating the tale of a dead goldfish that he felt guilty for not flushing, Ford forgets Freud and builds a character that holds both Anias Nin and Henry Miller close, through a veil of Australian Suburbanism.

Gordon Hookey, whose work is often rightly provocative, examines the use of language and the larrakin in a postcolonial Australian context. Though Hookey’s work, at times, is deliberately offensive, it recalls and re-ignites debate regarding the racial and social idiosyncrasies evident within Australian culture.

Eric Rossi, in an almost Duchampian gesture, debases art itself by drawing in the self. Drawing from the feminist saying, the personal is the political vis-a-vis, Rossi brings objects from a common capitalist environment into the gallery space and adds paint to the equation. You end up with an explosion of colour and refusal to play “the game”. By adding his personal “tag” (a neon fox), Rossi claims his ownership of said object, and takes art back into his own hands.

Spiritual Fitness, two terms set far apart, is the business set up by Sam Sharman as an experiment. To enliven ones self, all one has to do is enjoy the small things in life, like say, Michael Jackson, or taking in your environment. In creating this “virtual” business right next door to an actual gym, Sharman questions the validity of such spaces, and begs the question - do we need these designated “work out” spaces in order to feel fulfilled?

Is bad boy art just freedom from constraint? Does it feed that something rotten in our sterile world? Perhaps it’s just the vehemence to survive despite of it all.

By Sarah Werkmeister

From Independent Press

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