Kye Christensen-Knowles’s latest exhibition at Lomex, “Low Battery,” brings together a group of surreal paintings featuring bugs, distorted bodies, monstrous creatures, Roman senators, and everything in between. Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources, including Greek mythology, Renaissance painting, French Symbolism, anime, Deviant Art, and video games, Christensen-Knowles infuses his compositions with a moody and ominous atmosphere that engages the unsettling and fantastical elements of an unconscious visual culture. His predilection for pictorial representation grows from an appreciation of figurative work in contemporary painting.
In The Drop Out (2021), an emaciated figure slumps over in lethargy, iridescent flies seeming to sprout from their back. This anguished pose is exacerbated by their gaunt form as they collapse with outstretched arms, pupil-less eyes gazing at a fly flipped over on its back, each bearing the distorted position of collapse from pure exhaustion. These contorted positions—reminiscent of an Egon Schiele portrait—reveal Christensen-Knowles’s interest in figural misshapenness, which abounds throughout the show. His Home Video works, for instance, reduce the bodies of his subjects to exaggerated musculature, placing them in somber neoclassical rooms and inverting the informal documentation of a family movie. A throughline of grotesque horror weaves across the work as well: In The Children, he renders two disturbingly mutilated children at play. They grasp at markers with color-stained hands, scribbling on a surface that reveals itself to be the very canvas upon which they appear, bringing them quite tangibly into the viewer’s plane. —Gianna Samms
Kye Christensen-Knowles, The Children, 2021. Marker and oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy Lomex, New York.