For over thirty-five years, artist, writer, musician Billy Childish has been producing a variety of creative works -- hundreds of paintings, over forty volumes of poetry, a series of autobiographical novels, and more than 120 blues/punk influenced albums. I Am The Billy Childish, currently on view at Lehmann Maupin's Lower East Side space, gives visitors just a hint of Childish's prolific output.
Born in Chatham, Kent in 1959, Childish left school at 16 and worked on a dockyard and as an apprentice stonemason. A portfolio filled with one hundred drawings earned him admission to St. Martin's School of Art where the artist's "defiance to authority led to his eventual expulsion from art school in 1981," (from the show's press release). This clearly did not deter Childish from creating art in various ways, exploring themes of "war, history, social protest, as well as his own experiences of alcoholism, and the sexual abuse he suffered as a child." The first floor of the gallery presents the artist's recent paintings depicting volcanoes, the German mountaineer Toni Kurz, Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, as well as scenes of the Wounded Knee massacre. The upstairs gallery surveys Childish's music and litery projects, showcasing zines, books, and a collection of poems. Also on view are 55 of Childish's album covers, some featuring cover art by Childish and by artists Peter Doig and Daniel Clowes.
Influenced by Edvard Munch, Vincent van Gogh, and Dada, Childish's paintings feature shadowy figures against vibrating stokes of intense color. As the old saying goes, "write what you know," and Childish boldly and honestly writes, performs, and paints what he knows and experiences. At the exhibition's opening, the artist was on hand to read from his fifth novel, The Stonemason, as well as from his new collection of poetry, I Fuckt Frida Kahlo. Learn more at Lehmannmaupin.com. Through January 21st.