Kuchar coup

Pub date January 30, 2008
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

› johnny@sfbg.com

The drawings and paintings of George and Mike Kuchar are brightly colored, bosomy, and bulbous bouquets of bodacious flesh. Those bountiful breasts belong to women in George’s 1962 painting Voodoo Ceremony and in his 1977 Missionary Attack, in which a topless lady sporting an octopus skirt threatens to spear another wearing tiger skin pants and leather boots. But in Mike’s art the big bazookas belong to men. Margaret Tedesco, whose [2nd floor projects] space is presenting work by the Kuchar brothers, says one local filmmaker who recently visited her gallery compared the nipples of the men in Mike’s drawings to pacifiers.

The counterlogic of that observation is perfect, even if the nipples of a man in Mike’s Gay Heart Throbs, No. 3 also look like flying saucers. In that acrylic painting a guy in black leather holds a gift of flowers behind his perky buttocks as he talks to a young blond buck busting out of his tied-up shirt and cutoff shorts like a male Dolly Parton — or like a country version of George and Mike’s fellow underground filmmaker Peter Berlin.

Early on in the poignant and pungent memoir Reflections from a Cinematic Cesspool (Zanja Press, 1997), George writes that his and Mike’s interest in art began when their mother gave them paper and pencils and told them to have fun. Though their materials have since switched to film, video, watercolor, marker, and acrylic, the fun remains: without even trying, Tedesco’s show is a rebuff to the unfortunate abundance of contemporary art spaces, big and small, that have lost a sense of pleasure. Both George’s commercial art schooling — which included a spell spent drawing the weather on television, detailed wonderfully in Reflections — and Mike’s commissioned work for gay publications like Manscape and First Hand possess great humor, as well as perspectives so distinct that they might reach out and playfully nipple-tweak one’s assumptions about female and male beauty.

"I don’t care too much for macho," Mike tells the poet and novelist Eileen Myles in a short essay Myles wrote for the [2nd floor projects] show. "I like cuddly; sweetness." That warmth radiates from pen-and-ink pieces such as the idyllic Beefcake BC, in which, as Myles notes, a man rides a brontosaurus as if it were a surfboard. In the G-rated Triassic Terror a tyrannosaur and a pterodactyl wreak havoc, but there are emotional undercurrents in Jungle Jeopardy, in which one Tarzan rescues another who is Christlike in his pain.

Taking a different comic book tack, George renders mythic creatures such as Bigfoot (who has pendulous pecs, of course) and the Jersey Devil. Like his twin brother, though, he’s not afraid to try a little tenderness. From 1976, Jon is subtly in thrall to the hills and valleys of its subject’s nude backside. The acrylic-on-canvas Bocko (1970) complements and perhaps predates Joe Brainard’s wonderful oil portraits of his boyfriend Kenward Elmslie’s whippet Whippoorwill — even if George’s beloved Bocko weren’t an Alsatian, he would still make an ideal cover star for J.R. Ackerley’s classic 1956 book My Dog Tulip (Random House). Add these once-hidden treasures to Bruce Conner’s assemblages and ink works and to the lively circles of Manny Farber’s paintings, and you have the seeds for a lively survey dedicated to art by Bay Area filmmakers and critics.


Through Feb. 24

For details go to projects2ndfloor.blogspot.com