The sky seems to be the limit in “Wrath of God,” Martin Gustavsson’s painted reinterpretations of Gustave Doré’s engravings detailing the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is absolutely nothing modest about these canvases. The subject is of course bombastic, but the technique is equally over-the-top: Flesh tones, fiery reds, and sun-bright yellows are deployed voluptuously and are enhanced by lavish, thick layers of pink, gold, or white glitter. In the diptych The Deluge (all works 2007), two piles consist of bodies that seem to have melted together into a fleshy porridge of wormlike extremities. Interwoven with biblical motifs, as in Jacob wrestling with the angel, 2007, one finds paintings of cloud formations that look uncannily corporeal.
Myths of God’s punishment of his people for their sins and perversions have been the subject of countless beautiful artworks but have also inspired less exalted sentiments, among them homophobia. Gustavsson, who has also recently painted male nudes, plays with these divergent connotations, creating a painterly style simultaneously tender and violent. Here the sublime is evoked in so deliberate a manner that one cannot help but embrace the result, a gallery that seems (and smells) like an overtly licentious Sistine Chapel.