Poet Stevie Smith wrote, “The pleasures of friendship are exquisite.” Seeing Marc Kehoe and Dan Gosch, two painters and long-time pals in their first-ever joint exhibition at Van Vessem Gallery, it’s hard to disagree. Kehoe and Gosch are highly accessible artists—provocateurs, in a sense, prodding the viewer to react through sheer visual force.
The largest piece in the show is Gosch’s Ship of Fools—a fever dream given flesh. An orgiastic spectacle of superheated reds and pinks and a mess of fantastic bodies are framed by a cool, cobalt pair of nude figures. The visceral imagery of bodies packed in a car like ground beef in plastic would be unsettling, were it not comical.
Indeed, Kehoe and Gosch are wizards of the irreverent. Kehoe manages to turn even pain into something humorous: his images of a crying baby (papa e figlio) and a woman captive in the clutches of a gorilla are two of the show’s funniest selections.
Were they painters with less technical skill, Kehoe and Gosch might not get away with their absurdity. However, the work is spellbindingly adept. I repeatedly found myself getting lost in the images, staring for what seemed like minutes at simple blue brushstrokes in Kehoe’s monte sibilla 1.
Kehoe and Gosch may be tricksters, but their works exude irresistible love and attention toward their craft. Kehoe’sdonna velata is a bewitchingly stand-in for one by Raphael, and Gosch’s assortment of portraits is an endearing and charming freak show, showcased in a head-spinning variety of styles.
Kehoe and Gosch remind us to laugh not only at ourselves but at the world and its many, many pretensions. Sigmund Freud wrote that the joke helps us digest what is psychologically uncomfortable. Kehoe and Gosch remind us that the joke is not merely defensive; it is life-giving. Perhaps one day, when the world has been successfully enervated of all its humor and fun, Two Painters will emerge from the dystopian rubble and remind us to partake in those exquisite pleasures of friendship and laughter.
Originally Published in Art New England January 2015