By definition, his paintings are meant to be looked at, but Brett Andrus wants you to feel weird about it.
"It's like walking [in on] somebody in the changing room," he says of his latest show, which opened last Friday at the Modbo and S.P.Q.R. "You're kind of weirded out, but on the flipside, the subject [is not] that offended that you stumbled in."
To Andrus, that awkward feeling is another way of jolting the viewer into not just seeing a painting, but responding to it.
The Modbo curator and co-owner has a history of aggressively involving visitors in his shows, which have included elements of videography and performance and, on at least one occasion, historical re-enactors shouting insults at one another outside the gallery. For this show, he's re-casting "the viewer as voyeur."
"I think we have this condition now of being a culture who likes to look at other things, instead of participating," he says. "So I set up situations where I wanted the viewer to feel like they were walking into a room unexpectedly and seeing something they shouldn't be seeing."
With compositions that call to mind Zak Smith, Balthus and Lucian Freud — the latter two of whom he names as inspirations — the show aims to shock, though thoughtfully.
"There's no nudes in this show. I wanted to keep their clothes on for a change," Andrus quips.
Instead, the viewer is surprised by his or her own voyeuristic hunger to know the rest of the weird, sordid story behind the solemn-looking woman with another person's head under her skirts, or the squeaky-clean blonde with an imp's smile and a meat cleaver in her hand. That moment of surprise is where the fun starts, for Andrus' 20 new paintings tell five "sequential, comic book-y" stories whose characters repeat across the space of both galleries, alongside new works by fellow Modbo Collective artists Nina Peterson and Lorelei Beckstrom.
All of Andrus' works for the show were created in a three-month blitz. After this, the broker-by-day, curator-by-night says he's going to change his pace.
"The last two years have been solid 'get a body of work out, sell it, that's it.' ... I think it's going to be one of my last shows in Colorado Springs for a while," he says. Then he adds, "I say that now — who knows."