Bad Boys
Zuriel Waters’ Bad Boys are flirtatiously twisted self-portraits. If they could talk, they would speak slightly different versions of the same peculiar language – Waters’ queer, corporeal vernacular. Bad Boys are gender fluid, taking shape in a jumble of feminine and masculine parts. The animate figures appear to be self-aware of how strangely they are painted, with mitts for hands and feet, and ballooning sacs sprouting up in awkward places. Confronting us with a half-wit bovine gaze, some seem to sigh, “I’m sad that I wasn’t made right.” Others appear as if they could care less that they are studies in anomalies and conditions, particularly those with tiger stripes and reptilian patterns on their skin. Waters’ palette is likewise contradictory, as it can rely on sallow, fetid pastels that are sometimes chalky (he describes one figure as looking slightly syphilitic). Yet, other paintings are garish, bright and saturated. With a loose nod to Cubism, the work is animalistic and stylish. Imagine Henri Rousseau on crystal meth.

As entertaining as Bad Boys are, they are earnest paintings. Waters isn’t being ironic and he’s not making fun of us. A familiar, jocular immodesty runs through the series, but this should not be taken as an implicit message or repressed agenda. Maybe he’s inviting us to pause and bask in the materiality of the abstractly off – enjoy the perversion for whatever it is. Waters’ paintings illustrate that we have a body and we are a body. His work gets at the tug between our inner self and our social skin, reminding us that all human bodies will eventually be bad.

ZURIEL WATERS was born in 1984 in Philadelphia, PA, and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.  He has shown his work at Orgy Park and 57 Cell amongst other Brooklyn artist run spaces. He received an MFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design.