EMPTY SPACES/FEAR NOTHING | EAST GALLERY
OCTOBER 26 - DECEMBER 2, 2017
“I am a phony, a fraud, a fake. I am an actor and the part I am playing is that of an artist.”
A. Harry Wexler-Hunts (a pseudonym for the artist)
Hey, Kids, Let's Put On A Show!
From Rogers and Hart’s Babes in Arms
In art exhibitions it is clear that the show is the thing. The show as an entity is larger than the sum of works that are on display. Precedents for this can be found in the history of Modern Art; consider several prominent surrealist exhibitions, specifically those that employed Marcel Duchamp as the exhibition stylist, and in the sixties when serial work became a prominent preoccupation (think of an exhibition consisting entirely of Kenneth Noland’s target paintings). The esthetic impact of the whole exhibition eclipses the significance of any individual artwork. With the advent of the installation in the late sixties and early seventies the discreet artwork became little more than a fragment or souvenir as the artistic intention, previously contained within a single masterwork became instead a sprawling, multi-part epic.
In like fashion my own work concentrates on the show at the expense of the individual artwork, and the show incorporates a particularly theatrical dimension. The artworks, which at a glance fall into conventional categories of painting and sculpture, lack most of the virtues that have heretofore distinguished these disciplines. None of the materials are archival. Both paintings and sculpture are fabricated using cardboard and when paint is applied it is commercial acrylic house paint. The paintings are produced through the use of stencils, which challenges and conventional notion of the original. As such they take on a singularly transient quality; they exist solely for the sake of the overall effect, dispensing with any notion of autonomy. These works are hollow stand-ins for what is expected from art. They are an absence masquerading as a presence, which is the central preoccupation of my work.
Presence through absence is the conceptual driver in my decision to use stencils to produce paintings. The stencil itself is a physical manifestation of the principle as it is a tool that achieves a physical presence (the painting) through its absence (the negative spaces or holes in the template that serve to create the image). In the past templates have been used to produce projects about passive aggressive behavior, which is an emotional message delivered through the agency of an absent stimuli (think for instance about the blank stare or the cold shoulder) and the disproportionate distribution of wealth that results in the few haves and the many have-nots. The current project, Empty Spaces/ Fear Nothing features unoccupied rooms whose furnishings can only suggest human presence. These appear as virtual stage sets awaiting human presence and interaction. The sculptural ensembles are props. There is a hollowness or void at the center of these objects that, to my mind, is reminiscent of the facades of buildings in old Hollywood westerns. But the actual scale of the images and objects invites viewers to project themselves into the settings, thus momentarily occupying the emptiness. Thus the viewer provides the narrative, which can be as simple as imagining oneself sitting in a chair or as elaborate as a Chekhov dinner party.