Visual Arts

Update: Lindsay St. Antoine and Ravi Zupa's big, beautiful mess

Update: Because of the snow, this event has been postponed until Saturday, February 11.

Life is a big mess, but deep down we all know what to do.

Or so say Lindsay St. Antoine and Ravi Zupa in their upcoming exhibit, Nothing Teaches Needs, which opens at the Black Book Gallery.

That may be an oversimplified, heavy-handed way of interpreting the theme of the show, considering that it deals in part with Zupa and Antoine's eight-year, tumultuous relationship, as well as commenting on "warring nations and not adhering to each other's basic needs," as Zupa puts it.

Friday's show will mark the second half in a two-part, cross-Atlantic event that began with Zupa's Nothing Teaches Needs show that opened in London's Outsiders Gallery last month. (Zupa, a Westword MasterMind, was there for the opening and just got home two weeks ago; the show will be up into March.) Both exhibits deal with the epic themes of instincts, love and madness, but Antoine's state-side show is primarily rooted in her unlabeled, non-monogamous union with Zupa.

"That's what fueled the work," says Antoine. "Ravi and I love each other madly. And sometimes we see each other as adversaries. The emotion came from that place, that relationship. It's all kind of a big, delicate mess."

Is she referring to the work itself, or her relationship with Zupa? "Both," Antoine says.

Neither artist is eager to pigeon-hole the theme of the show into anything that would limit the emotional scope of the work -- but what's missing in specifics is more than made up for in enthusiasm. The two artists talk about the collaboration with an ardor that speaks to both their love for and frustration with each other.

Like a two-headed monster, both Zupa and Antoine are self-trained, independent artists who sport buzzed haircuts and a distaste for art school. When asked how long they've been working as artists, both reply "forever." As a child, Antoine could often be found illustrating her own short stories, and Zupa has been drawing as long as he can remember. When it came time to possibly seek a higher education for their craft, neither could see the point. "I'd be a considerably shittier artist if I'd gone to art school," says Zupa.

"It was a pretty deliberate choice for me not to go to college for art," agrees Antoine. "It would start to be too much of a job. And there are so many people making it as artists without a degree. Ravi didn't even finish high school, and he's obviously incredible."

The subject of putting creativity through the machinery of school comes up in reference to Zupa and Antoine's collaboration and the theme of their show. On thewebsite promoting Zupa's London exhibit, he writes, "Infants emerge from their mothers with perfect knowledge of how to coordinate their mouths and throats to feed.... And mothers need not be taught what to offer a hungry child." Both feel the same way about creativity: that it is more of an instinctual pursuit, and not always something that can be taught.

And judging from their upcoming show, the same could be said for love.

While Zupa collaborated with Antoine on a significant portion of the Black Book Gallery exhibit, it is Antoine's work that will be featured. Her painting style owes a debt to Jean Michelle Basquiat, while still evoking a deeply personal and emotionally rich range of expression. And she has plenty of room to express the project's large and complicated themes, with over 45 pieces on wood frames, a smattering of Zupa drawings and a projected video all showing the big, delicate messes of life.

The opening reception for Lindsay St. Antoine and Ravi Zupa's collaborative show, Nothing Teaches Needs, has been postponed until Saturday, February 11, at Black Book Gallery, 555 Santa Fe Drive.

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Josiah M. Hesse
Contact: Josiah M. Hesse

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