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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: New Art Exhibit Explores The Twisted Anatomy Of 'The Human Beast'

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Talk about kindred spirits: Jan Stussy and Maxine Kim Stussy—the former a painter, and the latter a sculptor—shared an affinity for depicting the human body as an avatar for both our interior lives and the surrounding environment. The couple's works seem to suggest that we don't have full agency over our own flesh; that our bodies are inseparable from our thoughts and desires, and thus often mercurial and undefinable. Likewise, the Stussys' paintings and sculptures are often disjointed, sometimes nightmarish, and always intriguing.

This Saturday, WUHO Gallery will kick off The Human Beast: Art of Maxine Kim Stussy & Jan Stussy, which provides a succinct survey of the couple's studies in figurative art. The exhibit will include twenty sculptures, paintings, and works on paper, the spread of which will cover more than four decades of the Stussy's oeuvre. One of the exhibit's aims is to introduce and contextualize the works of Maxine, who, thus far, has been the more underappreciated of the two. There'll also be a particular focus on Jan's large-sized paintings.

Michael Duncan, who's curating the exhibit, told LAist that the Stussys figured prominently in a specialized art movement during the mid-20th century. "There is a tradition of post-war figurative art in Los Angeles that begins with Rico Lebrun, Howard Warshaw, and William Brice and continues through the Stussys to a host of artists in the 1960s and later," Duncan wrote in a message. He believes that this tradition "has not often been focused on in broader art surveys" and adds that "the Stussys deserve a place in that untold story as bridges to the figurative work of today by LA artists like Paul McCarthy, Tom Knechtel, and Kelly McLane."

Aside from their work with the human figure, the Stussys also meditated on the anatomy of animals such as horses and birds. Similarly, they imbued the creatures with distorted features, and melded them with metal, wood, and other inanimate material. The prevailing sense here—as with the human pieces—is that the body is as unknowable as the inner self, or the invisible mechanisms of nature.

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While the Stussys have exhibited together quite often, the artists had led their separate lives as well. To Duncan's knowledge, the couple had never directly collaborated on a piece. Maxine's focus was her sculptures. Jan, while painting, had also devoted himself to teaching. He began teaching at UCLA in 1947, and later became the university's first art faculty member to be appointed as a full professor. He also co-produced the documentary Gravity Is My Enemy, which was about the life of quadriplegic artist Mark Hicks. It won an Academy Award in 1977. Jan passed away in 1990.

The Human Beast will open with a reception this Saturday at 6 p.m. The exhibit will run through January 22.

The WUHO Gallery is located at 6518 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood. The gallery is open 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, and 1p.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Exhibitions are free and open to the public.