Art of Darkness

But when Bickerton is on, he's lethal. The Vlaminko's (1999) pictures a mother, father, and daughter. Sally, the mother, sits naked in a failed lotus position inside a pyramidical contraption. She's your New Age, crystal-rubbing, guru-loving, enlightenment-seeking, wannabe Earth Mother. Roger, the dad, is hog-tied and wears a Donald Duck mask, Manolo Blahnik heels, and a Nazi armband. Their daughter, Laxmi, is this great, lumpish, acne-covered thing. A consumer child draped in advertising, she is lost in a haze of Game-Boys, cigarettes, candy bars, and Walkmans. Bickerton also loves bringing his audience in. Them (1998) is a study in the insanity of the exile, as two morons— one slightly dwarfed, the other a naked, mud-smeared ex-hippie— gleefully point right at you, welcoming you as a third in their mad company. It's as fabulous as it is scary.

When Bickerton is on, he's lethal: The Vlaminko's (1999).
Robin Holland
When Bickerton is on, he's lethal: The Vlaminko's (1999).

"Going Dutch" also means paying your own way. Bickerton, to whom so much has happened in so little time (he turned 40 last week), is more than back; he's his own man now. His recent work brings together his wide-ranging ideas about objects and finish, and melds his fearless approach to material and information. In The Birth of Djangozao (1998), a picture of the artist holding his newborn son, Bickerton's darkness finally turns to light. His wife, utterly exhausted having just given birth, sits next to him. Although the artist is dressed like some squirrelly Vietnam veteran— a psycho-scarecrow who has been hiding in the jungle too long— he is in ecstasy. He looks at you as if to say, "This is the truth, this is real." In the last show, we saw Bickerton with nothing to lose; his anger was out there. Here, his darkness is gaining a fuller dimension. It is repellent, disturbing, but ultimately thrilling.

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