In his ongoing series of painterly, drawn portraits, Chadsey continues a decade-long exploration of fantasized subjects that hover in the sfumato between the masculine and the effeminate: they are made-up “men” composed of selves presented for an unseen, image-consuming digital audience. If Giorgio Agamben describes persona as the mask through which we maintain social status, Chadsey’s morphed persons have visages that blur and flicker, as if yet to settle into a coherent identity. The pentimenti evidenced in Chadsey’s transparent process of drawing multiplies the poses on top of each other, as if they are in constant state of shedding, becoming. These men are caught up in enacting the various aspirations of the hyper-American notion of being all you can be. They are anxious, stuck perhaps in a moment of white male fragility: the center is not holding, the multiple drop-down-menu archetypes they enact clashing for attention. But they are excited, too; in the midst of a peacock display.
With additional references ranging from the obscure (nude portraits from Paris’ Salpetrière hospital) to the mundane (a close look reveals the Quaker Oats mascot), Chadsey’s cyborg characters are alluringly bizarre. His hybrid figures succeed in making the strange familiar and the familiar strange, blurring the line between viewer and subject, between personal history and the artist’s internet search history. The tree-ring pencil-lined skin of Chadsey’s men, an allusion both to Gustave Doré’s copperplate etchings of Dante’s Infernoand to presidential portraits on US currency, lead our eyes to travel along the subjects’ surfaces, rendering the body, itself, as an evolving physical narrative. Presented in glassless frames, the drawings are delicate, vulnerable even. Overwhelmingly articulated in life-size scale, the figures insist on being beheld.