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Cary Leibowitz’s current show “(paintings and belt buckles)” is a sea of tainted bubblegum pink that will chew you up and spit you out. Four sour walls that pulsate with self-abasing anxious red text on wooden panels fill the space. The belt buckles on display are stamped with events that never occurred. Events you are left wishing you were attending, such as Forty-fourth Fluxus Ice Cream Cone Lick-Off Detroit, Michigan July 4th 1976.
“(paintings and belt buckles)” is currently on view at Invisible-Exports’ new space 89 Elridge Street. The show runs through October 13. Whitewall caught up with Leibowitz to speak about the show and how he became known as “Candy Ass.”
WHITEWALL: Standing in Invisible-Exports with your show up, I almost felt dizzy with the bubblegum pink and fun-house-mirror-shaped wood panels you’ve painted on. A delicious carnival ride. A bit devilish and completely unforgettable. Where did the idea of the pink come from?
CARY LEIBOWITZ: I’ve made pink paintings for years and when Ben and Risa invited me to do a show I thought why bother using anything else when it’s really the PINK that I like best.
The color is called pink taffy and that’s a lovely co-incidence. I made a painting around 1990 called TAFFY. I guess its something I like to revisit. More taffy please!
WW: Your work seems to almost require an audience to complete it, like a satirical stand-up comedy show. Would you say that is accurate?
CL: That’s a nice thought but 99.99% of the time it has no audience so its me talking to myself… which is probably why a lot of my paintings have a right and left conversation.
WW: When and why did you develop the name “Candy Ass” for yourself?
CL: In the late 80s I was sitting around with a few friends and we all compared names we were teased with. One friend said he was called “candy ass” which was a word/name I never heard before but thought it was quite poetic in a concrete poetry sort of way. I made him a painting that said “CANDY ASS” and then for my birthday he gave me a little rubber stamp with “candy ass” on it. I was drawing a lot on yellow line legal paper and this nice word in red ink became “a signature.” At the time I qualified it as a Gay dada-ism.
WW: You have a confessional nature to your work. Has there ever been a time when you felt like you took your language or work too far? Or have you experienced anyone being shocked or offended by the work?
CL: I try and be honest and I try not to be mean. Sometimes I wish I could be more “forceful“or “pushy” but I prefer to embrace rather than repel.
WW: Do you have any favorite comedians?
CL: Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French should be knighted (really!).