Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to present Raynes E Birkbeck’s first solo exhibition with the gallery titled The World View Show. Born in the Bronx in 1956, Birkbeck is a largely self-taught painter, sculptor, draftsman and poet. A life-long New Yorker, Birkbeck chronicles personal and fictious accounts with subject matter ranging from environmental issues, war, politics and sex. In the artist’s current body of work, a sci-fi paradise where humankind is polyamorous, omnisexual and multigendered takes center stage. The exhibition, comprised of several oil paintings, drawings and a ceramic sculpture, forms the artist’s newest series of works titled The Dinoland Series.
Similar to the artist’s previous sci-fi alternate realities, Dinoland takes place sometime in the future, a world the artist calls “Earth 4.0.” Previous inhabitants of Birkbeck’s worlds reappear in Dinoland alongside self-portraiture. Recurring characters like Bad Billy, Davies Dynasty and General Custer are now seen on the California coastline and in Hollywood’s Tinseltown riding Dinosaurs, frolicking on beaches or engaging in wild orgies. In this fictitious future universe, Dinosaurs are both mammal and reptile, ingratiating themselves to humans because of their high intelligence and personality.
For Birkbeck, these paintings are partially reflections of his own personal history—people he has met, places he has visited, and things he has done. The artist himself appears in many of the paintings, whether he is riding a dinosaur, or as part of a free loving quartet or “throuple.” The orgies reflect Birkbeck’s optimistic nature, intimately linked to frisky experiences in the artist’s life, while the dinosaur symbolizes the artist’s past and future selves. Time is simultaneously collapsed and expanded. He explains, “I may be on the back of a dinosaur as one Birkbeck. Then another Birkbeck may be walking on the beach or engaging in an orgy. I’ve been through the 70’s and 80’s but in each timeline, it’s handled differently. In the new climate, there may be a gulf that can’t be breached again. It’s better to be alive than dead.”
The legacy of queer representation in art is propelled to the next level in Birkbeck’s Dinoland. Suffering is mitigated by fantasy and reductive binaries of liberation versus oppression are transcended. Take for example, Bill Halsey's Stigmata, where portraits of friends, lovers and beachgoers explore a glittering nudist beach littered with palm trees, resplendent with the colorful palette emblematic of Birkbeck’s work. A crawling Birkbeck approaches a couple, one being the decorated WWII Navy Fleet Admiral “Bull” Halsey, known for his aggressive war tactics. His presence in the painting breaks the tropes of heteronormativity and masculinity often associated with the military. Birkbeck’s interest in history emerges, with the segregation of troops until after WWII as a reoccurring motif.
The complexities of race and representation deeply inform the artist’s practice. Egyptian gods, the pyramids, and strong African civilizations such as the Sumerians and Nubians influence Birkbeck’s work. “What I have with race is that in many cases, there is always a chance to cross over -- there is a common bridge. We all come from the same place. There is a common place regardless of which religion or color. Law of the highest is the ultimate God -- He’s the Daddy of all of them, all of the pagans, Christians, and Jews.”
Raynes Birkbeck (b. 1956, Bronx, NY; lives and works in New York) has exhibited work at SITUATIONS, New York; the Bureau of General Services—Queer Division, New York; The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York; Norma Mangione Gallery, Turin, Italy; and Safe Gallery, Brooklyn. His work has been reviewed in Art Forum. Willow Glen Films is producing a documentary about Raynes set to be released in 2020.