The shadowy figure who is the conceptual artist/curator/aspiring mormon calling himself Qi Peng has curated me into an exhibition called “The Artist Guide to the L.A. Gallaxy” at the West Los Angeles College Art Gallery. I think this is my first show in an academic institution that i did not attend. I guess I am finally going legit.
I won’t be able to make it out to LA, so I sent my painting of “LA Tom Sanford”, a painting from a series of several other Tom Sanfords whom I have met and then painted. I had hoped that LA Tom Sanford would be able to attend the opening as my surrogate. Unfortunately he is currently busy in northern California doing a bid as a organic farmer and will not be able to get away from his crops long enough to make it downstate to the opening. This is a shame as I got on famously with my LA namesake over many beers at the Red Lion when I met him back in August of 2008 and very much wanted to have him stand in for me on this one. I would have happily given LA Tom Sanford license to act on my behalf at the opening and probably all matters art related on the left coast.
Below are the details included in a very lengthy press release. If you are in the area please stop in and let me know how it came out, maybe even take a photo and send it to me, I’m very curious to know what exactly Qi Peng is up to!
WEST LOS ANGELES
COLLEGE ART GALLERY
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
West Los Angeles College Art Gallery
9000 Overland Avenue
Culver City CA 90230
Tel: +1 310 287 4200
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Exhibition dates: February 10-March 18, 2010
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 20, 6-9
Gallery hours: Monday-Thursday, 9:30-4, Friday, by appointment
The West Los Angeles College Art Gallery is proud to present “The Artist’s Guide to the L.A. Galaxy,” a group exhibition curated by Michael Arata and qi peng featuring work by William Brovelli, Kadar Brock, Vincent Como, Jon Coffelt, Eric Doeringer, Julie Dunker, Emilie Duval, Jeff Faerber, Daniel Heidkamp, Megan Hildebrandt, Joelle Jensen, Matt Jones, Mindy Kober, Shay Kun, Amy Lincoln, Jenny Morgan, Jenny Morgan + David Mramor, Tom Sanford, Dannielle Tegeder, Dave Thomas, Leah Tinari, and Jeremy Willis.
INTERVIEWER: Hello there, Michael and qi. I just heard about this new show called “An Artist’s Guide to the L.A. Galaxy.” Sounds like a crossbreed between Douglas Adams and David Beckham’s soccer team. So what is going on in this exhibit here at West Los Angeles College?
CURATORS: This group show is a critical dialogue about the idea of portraiture, including self-portraiture, in the age of new media such as the Internet and social networking particularly with Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. We decided to focus particularly only on “traditional” media and exclude video and internet art because we are interested in presenting the strong impact of our Internet-based lives on these “traditional” forms such as paintings, sculptures, installation art, photography, and works on paper. This group show is pretty extensive, including both emerging and established artists, in looking at how artists who do not work specifically in new media are influenced by the shifting of the Internet as a portal for mostly getting information online during the early 2000s towards a virtual medium for people interacting with each other in a parallel universe through social networks during the late 2000s. Also we felt that focusing on the theme of portraits would give us an overview on how human identity is perceived and constructed in the postmodern era.
INTERVIEWER:. There does not seem to be a common language by which these artists explain their own version of what human identity is. So what is the underlying thread amongst all of these seemingly different works?
CURATORS: These works are significant innovations because they are all about painting/photographing degree zero. They are subject to endlessly open interpretation and all attack human identity as a closed set of qualities. Whereas the mainstream media depict people within preset stereotypes, the artworks in “The Artist’s Guide to the L.A. Galaxy” present an alternative view of human identity as a set of shifting constructs. This continual refusal to pinpoint who the “characters” within these pieces beguile the viewers who see these works in its remixed context. You can think of this show as an ambiguous cross section about who we are today.
INTERVIEWER: Does this allusion to Barthes suggest that the artist is constructed by how their works are created rather than the other way around? For example, will the viewer figure out who the original “Shay Kun” is based on the two paintings that exist now here in Los Angeles?
CURATORS: Yes, we invite the viewers to recreate a “Shay Kun” of their liking based on how they interpret his works in person. It’s like becoming a detective who is not interested in solving a crime but making up fictional ghost-like criminals to catch based on their intertextual fantasies of who they want to be the opponents.
INTERVIEWER: Can you give us an overview on who are participating in this visual mixtape of the past decade?
CURATORS: Okay, let us head to the breakdown:
Within illustrative caricatures, Faerber, with his acerbic wit, attacks the secretive and dictator-like tendencies of Karl Rove as a bespectacled bandit or the Patriot Act-era satellite peering into our personal lives within his explicitly political depictions of the Bush administration during the 2000’s. Tinari’s gentle yet sharp humor portrays Edith Wharton-like characters who seem to be celebratory and optimistic against all odds while living in idyllic beach resorts. Her gouaches examine a cultural fin de siecle where slogans such as “White Tail” or “I Heart Sex” become acts of defiant self-expression in the repressive culture of conservatism. Are Tinari’s works a satire of an age where economic hoodwinking and materialistic excess were predominant or affectionate character studies of people who act as if they really knew how to love their lives in the American spirit? She provides no answers for the viewer. Finally, Sanford’s portrait of his “surrogate Tom Sanford” whom the artist had discovered and met through Google suggest that the uniqueness of any person’s identity is subsumed by our ability to find other versions of ourselves in parallel universes such as New York City and Los Angeles. These political and sociological works examine how we are a tenuous constructs of double or multiple fragments of how others see us.
Other works contain more postmodern and conceptual methodologies or viewing angles. For example, Jensen’s photographs apply portraiture as a framing device of our own personal histories, in this case, one’s high school years. Like the images in Proust’s novel, her memories are vague recollections of the ghost of her early years within these photographs of photographs like doubled identities. Heidkamp’s neo-expressionist painting of a photograph or the act of photographing using a digital camera is intellectually playful. Is he suggesting that our culture of YouTube and Flickr where people pose for seemingly throwaway snapshots is becoming our more democratic historiography? Como’s ability to use a single color black as his signature arrives in his dark humor whether he offers the viewer mass-produced editions of monochrome paintings or a thoughtful self-portrait in the form of a parody of the Guinness World Records. Kober’s pieces reflect her own take on commonplace historical and cultural images that are remixed into new contexts that subvert the images’ original meaning.
Other portraits represent a deliberate fragmentation of the human identity within dual or serial formalism while exploring how artworks gain cultural and economic value. Doeringer’s brilliant remix of an obscure Charles Ray piece taken from a Christie’s auction lot using his own clothes and his own body is not just another piece of appropriation art. Here is a direct confrontation of basic assumptions about how we value art. For example, why would the Eric Doeringer version of this concept be valued less or more than the Charles Ray if the idea is what forms the artwork? Can art be separated from its sociological context? Brovelli’s offering of an Etch-A-Sketch with apropos documentation of its creation is not only completely self-referential in which receipt and purchased object become the completed piece but also a ruthless probing into how consumerism became an art form during the 2000s when the art market become a high stakes game. Jones’ “ghost” drawings can be read as profound explorations into the complex nature of communication and expression and as metaphor for human identity as a form of Schrodinger’s cat (where identity is not a fixed concept but a complex set of possible interpretations). In addition to adding an allusion to one of the exhibit’s curators (qi peng), this set of drawings show that mark-making combine to form complex drawings as individual characteristics combine to form one’s personality.
Some of the portraits have the strong roots in traditional painterliness of the individual while reflecting the themes of social networking, the conflict between the personal and the public domains of life, and the artist’s concern with the art historical context. For example, Lincoln’s subtle portraits are firmly modernist in its outlook with references to outsider art whether it be her exquisite depiction of the painter as the subject in the vein of Picasso’s theme of artist and model or her subjects within a reflective mood that captures the inner essence of her sitters. Hildebrandt’s self-portrait takes a distinctly more feminist slant with her subversion of the blonde stereotype as a cultural artifact to be struck down by social judgment of women by character rather than physical appearance. Morgan’s seemingly photorealistic nude studies of her female subjects in regal, fleshy contrapposto are interrupted by the Renaissance era obsession with anatomical studies and the corporeal attention to tight detail of blood and lighting. Thomas’ cartoon-like self-portraits gently mix expressive gestures of the artist as a provocative minstrel with obsessive graffiti and stencils like Pensato crashing into Twombly. Willis depicts a colorful portrait of a terrified male that mixes up horror and insanity to suggest the madness of our fast-paced lives today. Brock’s examination of the spiritual conflict between the abstract pattern of the magical diamond and the figurative self-portrait of himself as an alligator derived from a dream becomes an universal archetype of an artist as a restless wanderer always looking for that elusive chord of resolve. His paintings express an innate freedom of the artist to use whatever tools he or she has on hand ranging from oil to spray paint to flashe for the building of self-identity. Like Brock’s works, Morgan and Mramor’s collaborations also explore the conflict between the figurative and abstract worlds within a painter’s vocabulary. In a creative homage to the Surrealist movement, the duo mash up graffiti stencils with precisely rendered photorealism while illustrating the linguistic pun of eye/I as the epitome of self-creation.
Various portraits focus on the unit of society beyond that of the single individual, particularly on how one person relates to the environment, within conceptual landscapes impacted by the human touch even though humans seem to be mostly absent. Kun’s fascinating paintings of a man dwarfed by his placidly rustic landscape interrupted by the absurdity of human or animal activities whether it be nuclear explosions or parachuting soldiers or mutant reindeers. He allows the viewer to ponder how humanity perceives and controls Nature. Is an artist a shaman over a fictional Nature in a parallel universe? Duval’s pastel-hued wallscape depict a world of interrupted boundaries where political identities are defined by our global dissolution of nations into a new world order threatens to erase our cultural uniqueness. Even though Kun’s and Duval’s portraits seem to be more environmental and political than the previous set of portraits of single individuals, these pieces study the way that our single identities are molded by external cultural or scientific factors that surround us every single day.
The final set of portraits delve into the world of pure abstraction where the artist attempts to translate his or her innermost thoughts of his or her personality into a formal language of abstract marks on the work itself. Dunker’s painting is a literal depiction of a geometric composition derived from her own psychology merged into hard-edge brushstrokes that masks her own identity rather than a landscape as a translated form of an actual scene in reality with the touch of personal effects. Coffelt’s complex abstractions combine his own fascination with electrical circuit boards infused with a personalized color scheme and a mechanical symphony of synthetic patterns reminiscent of Halley’s work. Tegeder’s installation of an encyclopedia of her drawings deploying a collision between lines and shapes into balanced forms (of which the original version had these drawings translated digitally into sonic landscapes played over speakers) reflect her own love of classical music, particularly Scriabin, as well as reflecting on art history tied into musical composition, particularly the Suprematists and Kandinsky, within the context of our era of seemingly random information where a tidbit of Paris Hilton’s life is equal to an axiom of Wittgenstein’s book. Tegeder’s work reminds us that refined draftsmanship is the basis for the portrait as a philosophically viable idea rather than simply a straightforward portrayal of a human being. One could argue that her piece is a scalpel into the human soul that is part of the inexpressible.
INTERVIEWER: Whew, this is a lot to take in! I really cannot wait to see this exhibition soon. Any final thoughts?
CURATORS: We are excited to see how the public responds to our comprehensive survey of portraiture and self-portraiture during the past decade that extends on the human subject as depicted by Currin and Yuskavage during the 1990’s. Hopefully all of you can check out our new media portrait of the exhibition at http://lagroupshow.weebly.com/ and also there will be a physical catalogue/artist’s book for the show as well with introductions by Matt Jones, New York painter who is featured in this show, as well as Brian Staker, art reviewer for the Salt Lake City Weekly and freelance journalist. PROST!
For further information or visual information, please contact the gallery at (310) 287-4200 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.