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Art From the New WorldLatest News
Tues 17 Aug, 2010.
Art From the New World may be nearing the end of its showing at the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery (UK), but that’s all the more reason to make an extra-special effort to see what is billed as an exhibition presenting, for the first time to British and European audiences, nearly 50 emerging and established artists working in the contemporary American Lowbrow–Pop Surrealism movement.
Many of the artists created new work especially for the exhibition, which was curated by the Corey Helford Gallery, Los Angeles, in collaboration with the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery. Jan Cory Helford, founder, owner and curator of the LA gallery, has outlined the significance of Art From the New World:
...America is gushing forth a new wave of taste and style born of Pop Iconic culture, expanding American diversity, resistance to the mainstream art world and a need to communicate to an art audience looking for relevance in America’s Age of Uncertainty. The selected artists are part of an exciting new art movement that encompasses all forms of media and art – painting, sculpture, printing, stencil, photography, digital art. Their work defies traditional paths and has been embraced by a new generation of collectors and enthusiasts who crowd the exhibitions of a growing circuit of alternative galleries spreading throughout the United States.
SDk can confirm “the eclectic mix of artists” and work gathered together for this relatively small but insightful exhibition. Our favourite piece was the digital artwork Silent Partner by Ray Caesar, a deceptively brooding work that depicts a femme fatale in Caesar’s trademark style, casually leaning against ornate drawers apparently containing the body parts of the lover she has dismembered. Although there is only a hint of this gruesome narrative in the image, it is the interpretation Caesar chooses to project onto his creation: “[i]t is always good to know where your man is and have [a] place for everything”, he reveals in an interview with Richard Scarry and Chippy Coates of the Bristol-based art blog Coates and Scarry.
Caesar – in fact a British-born, Toronto-based Canadian artist – is, however, a somewhat reclusive and peace-loving man with a healthy, quirky sense of humour, and his other piece in the exhibition, Love Letters, communicates more benign imagery. Both pieces were created for Art From the New World, and “basically are self portraits of the diverse parts” of himself, he told Coates and Scarry. This helps explain the hidden narrative of Silent Partner, since Caesar suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder.
Indeed, narrative and a figurative focus characterise the work of the sometimes-disparate artists who, although often making up different sub-genres, collectively constitute what is a broad Lowbrow–Pop Surrealist movement. The other principal characteristic associated with the artists of this movement is technical skill – and SDk has witnessed and appreciated the abundance of the technical skill on display.
Testimony to the diversity of the artists and mediums of this once-underground movement are the other works SDk found appealing: Chris Anthony’s eerie, surrealistic–political Uncle Sam–Obama commentary of SKAM (archival pigment on Museo Silver Rag); Coop’s giant, comic-book vagina Close Friend (acrylic on canvas); Camille Rose Garcia’s evocation of childhood’s darker moments in Sneewitchen (acrylic & glitter on panel); Eric Joyner’s evocation of childhood wonder in Disrupted (oil on panel); Elizabeth McGrath’s small, sculptural Cerberus (mixed media with Swarovski crystals & gold leaf), which depicts the three-headed dog-guardian of the gates of Hell as a Chihuahua; for it’s painterly aesthetic, Michael Page’s lush, rich-blue Pa Sapa, 1874 (oil on panel); Joshua Petker’s disturbing Head Wound IV (acrylic on canvas); Johnny Rodriguez’s literally dark, ominous Heavy Dice (mixed media), which also doubles as the artwork for a motorcycle magazine cover; Mike Stilkey’s 1920s–30s cabaret-decadence of Time and Time Again (ink, acrylic & coloured pencil on books), notable for its unusual medium and format as much as the imagery; Martin Whittfooth’s strangely amusing, animal-triumphant post-apocalyptic world of The Fish Market (oil on linen).
Another favourite, which greets all visitors as they step into the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery’s entrance vestibule – and is viewable through the building’s glass doors from the street – is Mike Stilkey’s colossal, double-sided painting–sculpture–installation (mixed media: ink, coloured pencil, paint & lacquer on books). An Unusual Evening was created in the week leading up to the exhibition and is an imposing work of art that evokes Weimar Germany in depicting a decadent-looking couple on the spines of well over 2,000 donated books that were saved from pulping. The rendering of the woman’s white dress on the inward-facing side of the installation is brilliantly coordinated with the afternoon sunlight that streams into the building’s old porte-cochere from the street.
And then there is Buff Monster’s towering ice cream cone in the museum’s foyer – not one of our favourites, but hard to ignore.
A wide range of events and activities has been coordinated with the exhibition, including meet-the-artists talks and signings, and exhibition tours with British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) winner, artist and curator Gary Baseman, and Corey Helford Gallery director Richard Scarry. The last such events will be Thursday 19 August and Saturday 21 August; the exhibition's final day is Sunday 22 August.
Exhibition hours are 10:30 to 17:00 daily, until 20:00 Wednesday. Entry is free.
See the Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery website for all details.
See Juxtapoz for further images of Art From the New World.
Text copyright © SomethingDark 2010. Images copyright © Ray Caesar, Mike Stilkey, and Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery 2010. All rights reserved.