Purveyor of his own-brand evil, Meese’s performances, paintings and sculptures function as operatic stages for supernal ritual: litanies of cultural resurrections, baptisms, purges, and cleansings mediated by none other than the high priest himself. Using self-portraiture as a shamanistic device, Meese’s infamous ‘wild man’ image – quasi crazed prophet, death metal pontiff, primordial fiend – channels all manner of execration and taboo for his own irreverent cultish mythology. Drawing equally from historical anathema and its lingering ideologies and the lowly orders of B-movie kitsch, professional wrestling, and comic book archetypes, Meese is author, auspex and deity of his own divinely sordid faction exalting contemporary anxiety.
Johnny (Pupsie) in seinen Bergen (Hot Fondue) features a selection of eight paintings made during Meese’s recent residency at Patricia Low’s La Maison Jaune in Gstaad, marking a unique chapter in his bestial lore. Performative to the core, the paintings’ fictional narrative plays out under the influence the artist’s real holiday surrounds, proffering a surreal subplot: demonic icon in the alpine playground of the ultra posh.
In these works, Meese’s lexicon terrible is filtered through an aesthetic of rarefied refinement and class as his trademark readymade barbarism of straight from the tube colours and rapacious application finds itself under the irresistible spell of glamorous, sophisticated repose.
There’s Caligula sheathed in vampish high style, all botox lips and gothic deco, exuding slinky sex-power; anti-hero Colonel Bruzzz commands, as ever, devil red, a nefarious baron of elegance posed in swish ambient frivolity; and Baby, moustachioed prince of darkness, is rendered with alluring Rococo-ish pomp. With his familiar cast of characters furnished newly stately and cultured, these works show Meese at his very best: riotously funny, endemically haunting, and utterly controlled. In this fabled land of luxury, less is unquestionably more: his understated brushwork, exacting compositions, and back to basics motifs show Meese at the pinnacle of his game. It’s a deal with the devil that’s absolutely worth it.