It’s Only Rock and Roll

timothy-gaolty-posterJakub Julian Ziolkowski: Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains Art and rock 'n' roll just go together. Throbbing Gristle, Sonic Youth and Mike Kelley, Albert Oehlen and Red Crayola…the list of crossover brands is extensive. We can now add Jakub Julian Ziolkowski and Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains, the concept behind and title of Mr. Ziolkowski's New York debut at Hauser & Wirth, to that list. Unlike his predecessors, though, Ziolkowski does an end-run around the art/rock concept by producing paintings, drawings, and gouaches about a fictional band. Sans music, it is all surface, no soundtrack.   Since we can't judge the songs (I imagine they would sound like Nick Cave fronting a Klezmer Ensemble) we are left with just the pictures. No problem -- is it actually necessary to listen to Lady Gaga? Even without the tunes, we don't go away disappointed: Ziolkowski gives us a mash-up of '80s Neo-Expressionist greats. Jiri Georg Dokoupil and Martin Kippenberger in (untitled, 2010), Albert Oehlen (in another untitled, 2010), and a healthy dose of Rat Fink and R. Crumb ("Man with the Key" and "Priceless Arse"). High-keyed color and staccato brushwork replace guitar assault, and a surrealist sense of narrative combines elements from Goya, Ernst, and Bosch with measures of BD/SM and KGB. The artist that Ziolkowski seems most indebted to, at least to judge by this exhibition, is the under-recognized Gunter Brus. Like Ziolkowski, Brus and his fellow Viennese Actionists combined art and theater, National Socialism and De Sade. Brus's illustrated Will-o'-the-Wisp, an endless "book" of poems, provides the template for the posters, drawings, and paintings for and about the mythical band. Ziolkowski’s aesthetic is somewhat removed, second-hand, coming from his having grown up in a rural, Hassidic, Post-Soviet Polish town -- not exactly a hotbed of culture. There is something sweetly retro-naïve to his idea of what the posters and covers for The Dead Brains look like, harkening back as they do to late '60s and early '70s albums. In the era of Limewire and iTunes, they remind us of an earlier time when Led Zeppelin and David Bowie's LP jackets and liner notes were works of art in themselves, something to be poured over for clues about the band and the music.   In the oil on canvas "untitled (King of Israel)" we also get some insight into his eschatological interests and a further sense of his background as a Jew in Poland after the Second World War. Studies of dismemberment and torture, the profusion of disembodied eyeballs and tits, read a little more personal than political, and give the works a greater depth than the album covers that they might have aspired to become.   On the other hand, maybe this is to miss the point of Ziolkowski’s project. One doesn't look to Bono for enlightenment on The Troubles, so what should we expect from the fictional Goloty? Just like in rock 'n' roll, image is everything, and Ziolkowski gives us a lot to look at. We may have heard some of these songs before, but Timothy Goloty & The Dead Brains cover them well. - Bradley Rubenstein Timothy Galoty & The Dead Brains is at Hauser & Wirth New York, 32 East 69th St., Manhattan, through July 30, 2010 domMr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.