Weird Dumb Dude Energy / Hyperallergic

Nick Wylie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Clean Every Whit (2012 — ongoing), footwashing and nail-painting performance (image courtesy the artist)

Nick Wylie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Clean Every Whit (2012 — ongoing), footwashing and nail-painting performance (image courtesy the artist)

CHICAGO — Born from the girl brains of Chicago artists Eileen Mueller and Jamie Steele of the curatorial project GURLDONTBEDUMB (GDBD), the exhibition Weird Dude Energy (WDE) takes its inspiration from the blog of the same name, which was started in 2008 by Christine Boepple and Kerry McLaughlin. In their current formats on the ever-changing internet, one could consider GDBD and WDE as indexing the aesthetics ofgendered dumbness, though ultimately the meanings of each of these blogs and their curated content is up to the users who peruse them. Mueller and Steele’s Weird Dude Energy group show features a gang of male artists working across mediums toward a single common dudely denominator.

While a show about a masculine energy-force curated by two women is, er, ballsy, the end result didn’t quite live up to its expectations. For the record, the curators keep it gendered by only including masculine-identified artists in the exhibition, yet sidestep gender essentialism by making sure that not every “dude” in the show was born with a dick. But beyond the show’s potentially potent premise, the work in the exhibition lacked the balls to really go all out — but it certainly got people talking. The space was packed on opening night, and the weird dude energy almost sent the room vibrating. I decided to grab a coffee with artist Latham Owen Zearfoss, a quasi-’dude’ whose work was not included in the exhibition, and have a conversation about the show, about what worked and what didn’t, and why we are still talking about what dudes are up to. We chatted away while sipping iced coffee from Cafe Moustache, a favorite Chicago coffee shop named after yet another variation on the construct of — you guessed it! — masculinity.

Alicia Eler: There are already a lot of group shows featuring work by male artists. How does Weird Dude Energy work against that, in your opinion?

Latham Owen Zearfoss: It seems like if you are going to do a large group show of only men, it’s kind of a problem, or considered retrograde or just really not of the moment. The idea of doing so intentionally and calling it out and also making it the premise of the show makes it very intriguing, and intends to push buttons in a way that I like.

AE: What was your take on the show overall? 

LZ: I like the way the premise of the show pushes buttons and checks a knee-jerk reaction—which is that a show of all men is a suspect and/or retrograde thing — but I don’t know that WDE or the work itself is cohesive enough or pushing against those notions enough. I feel like maybe my take on the show is a little incomplete, and maybe the show was a little incomplete, or too expansive. The premise is full of so much potential, and the show itself doesn’t meet that. Part of it is that it rests too much on a literal interpretation of ‘weird dude energy.’ That’s okay, but there’s a strain of weird dude ‘party art’ in there that maybe is a little too ironic and jokey, and inherently avoids risks. I want the show to be as risky as the premise is.

Read the full story on Hyperallergic: