Moist Gilding
Western Project, Los Angeles, CA 2013 

painting, drawing, sculpture, performance
[CLICK HERE to view exhibition performance] 

The blood-tinged and honey-dipped mixed  
media paintings, drawings, and sculptures  
by Aaron Sheppard at Western Project offer 
a genteel Mannerism exploded by scale and 
turned out in a riot of tertiary color, 
transgressive eroticism and gestural anat-
omy. Every bit of dripped, washed, split, 
spliced, ecstatically eviscerated and 
slathered-on pigment, ink, and deeply carved 
wood consorts to depict people and objects 
in scenes from Greek mythology and subse-
quent art-historical allegories rooted in 
it. That Sheppard takes iterations of class-
icism as a stylistic as well as conceptual 
starting point is asserted straight off by 
the elaborate and integrated frames. Their 
aggressively ornate character suggests the 
fancy museum as confidently as a stage set, 
so that their Rococo excesses affirmatively 
function on a narrative level as well as a 
formal one. Art history is used here as a 
case study for cognitively accepting the 
chaotic simultaneity of paradoxical life ex-
periences, expressive of the messy exuber-
ance of memory and desire. As observed by 
Sheppard's spirit-guide, the incendiary 
philosopher Georges Bataille, "The need to  
go astray, to be destroyed, is an extremely  
private, distant, passionate, turbulent  
truth." And Sheppard sincerely recommends  
going astray.

An operatic, gender-bending, elegant, un- 
settling, fanciful anarchy is expressed in  
both the style and the stuff of which the  
work is made--acrylic, oil, neon, fabric, 
pen, paper, wood, foam, wire, thread, spray 
paint, photo-collage, marker, gold leaf, most 
or all of which appears in every work to some 
degree. In the masterpiece Salmacian Looking- 
Glass (2013), bodies stop and start, sex parts  
co-nullify and intermingle, and saliently, no 
distinguishment is made between either self 
and other, or between dreaming and waking, yet 
the work's stance on the side of beauty holds 
firm. Along with Psyche the goddess of the 
soul, who stars in several pieces, the Mermaid 
(which also recurs, and is especially powerful 
in a sculpture that looks like a Will Cotton 
painting which got the daylights beaten out of 
it) is a touchstone for the broader subtext. 
The Mermaid is inherently paradoxical as a 
matter of science, and both desired and feared 
as a matter of psychology. Like so much else in 
art and literature and society, she is product 
of male fantasy and an aspect of "dangerous" 
female power, a signifier of magic, myth, dis-
covery, fear and longing, reality, perception, 
and sex, sex, sex. Gorgeous and violent, she 
is a psychosexual archetype that crosses 
borders of culture, geography, language, 
style, era and art--just like these ineffable 

-shana nys dambrot
 art ltd.
 Nov/Dec 2013
Salmacian Looking-Glass, 2013
painting: oil, acrylic, charcoal on canvas; oil, spray paint, gold leaf on wood carved 
frame; resin, silicon eggs
123 1/2 x 220 x 24 inches
chaise: oil, acrylic on canvas; upholstery; spray paint, gold leaf on wood carving; wax 
candle; fringe
93 x 50 x 30 inches

Salmacian Looking-Glass, DETAIL

Salmacian Looking-Glass, DETAIL

Salmacian Looking-Glass, DETAIL

Salmacian Looking-Glass, DETAIL

Füßchen, 2013
oil, acrylic, wire, fiberglass mannequin, carved wood, carved foam; 
Plexiglas base
33 x 80 1/2 x 42 inches


Füßchen, DETAIL


Yellow Tank, 2013
oil on Plexiglas with neon, wire, transformer
40 1/2 x 48 1/2 inches

Psyche's Abduction of Mercury (from the right): O Fortuna, 2013
marker, oil, acrylic, wire, coins, gold leaf on paper
89 1/2 x 42 inches

Psyche's Abduction of Mercury (from the left): 
You and Me and The Devil Makes Three, 2013
marker, oil, acrylic, photo collage on paper
91 x 42 inches

Tiptoe Past The Black Horse, 2013
charcoal, acrylic, latex on paper mounted on wood with metal hardware
96 1/4 x 54 x 8 inches

Psyche's Abduction of Mercury (from behind): Alternating Current, 2013
marker, acrylic on paper mounted on wood; carved, burned wood frame 
with latex; neon, wire, transformer
96 1/4 x 54 x 8 inches

At the Helm, 2013
marker, oil on paper with carved wood frame
28 x 18 inches

Ate Head On, 2013
graphite, colored pencil, plaster, photo collage on foam core
12 1/2 x 10 1/2 inches


Ermes, 2013
oil, acrylic, plastic, thread, collage, paper, fabric on foam core 
6 x 6 inches

Heads or Tails, 2013
plastic sheet, thread, collage, paper, fabric on foam core
8 x 6 inches

The Fates' Apprentice, 2013
oil, acrylic, plastic, thread, collage, paper, fabric, fabric cord
on foam core 
9 x 9 inches

Near Eclypso, 2013
oil, acrylic, plastic, thread, collage, paper, fabric, costume jewelry 
on foam core 
7 x 10 inches