From Joy to Terror
From Joy to Terror
A Travelling Exhibition from School 33 Art Center, Baltimore
Curated by DCCA Curator of Contemporary Art Maiza Hixson
Carole Bieber and Marc Ham Gallery
July 13 - October 20, 2013
All currently or recently Baltimore-based, the artists in this thematic group exhibition envision time travel, explore oral histories, and inhabit diverse personas to address relevant political, environmental, and socio-economic themes. A fantasy and reflection of contemporary culture, From Joy to Terror contextualizes the gallery as a space for art, activism, and social exchange. Featuring a selection of drawings, painting, sound, video, and sculpture, the exhibition also includes interactive artworks that hinge upon visitor participation. Making disparate references, the broad range of subjects reflects the role of interdisciplinary thought in contemporary artistic practice emerging from Baltimore.
Regarding the importance of artistic community, in her essay Unexpress the Expressable, critic Chus Martinez states, “The ideas for shaping and thinking the world do not—cannot—come from civil society but from a community of artists.” Martinez goes on to critique art institutions and art exhibitions as “sense-making operations” that make seemingly inexplicable artworks palatable for publics. While From Joy to Terror is concerned with the idiosyncratic creativity of a particular geographic location, there is a limit to classifying any of the artists’ creative expression as particularly “Baltimorian.” Ultimately, artists in From Joy to Terror are distinct and represent Martinez’s idea of an artistic community “who cannot answer to normativity.”
Gretchen Hupfel Curator of Contemporary Art
Benjamin Andrew, Baltimore, MD
Chronoecology Corps, 2013, Wooden cart, props and performance
Chronoecology Research Station, 2013, Table, computer, comic books
Chronoecology Field Report, 2013, HD video
Great Cedar Tree..., 2013, Inkjet print
A Zoo Study..., 2013, Inkjet print
View of West Dublin..., 2013, Inkjet print
Carpenters House..., 2013, Inkjet print
Benjamin Andrew introduces Chronoecology Corps as a gesamkunstwerk or a total work of art into the gallery. Encompassing nearly every creative medium, from drawing and sculpture to sound and video art, the project is also a living comic book based on the science fiction premise that in the future nature is obsolete and the artist is a time traveling scientist who must return to the past to archive people’s experiences of the environment. The artist invents simulation machines to allow people of the future to imagine the sound of crickets at night and the feeling of grass between one’s toes in the gallery.
Installing a desk, computer, TV monitor, and mobile cart in the gallery, at first glance Andrew’s artwork may appear more like office furniture than scientific ephemera marking his epic utopian return to a metaphorical Garden of Eden. Through deadpan humor, Andrew evokes humanity’s timeless nostalgia for nature and the very real threat of ecological destruction. Given that one half of all plants and animals species on dry land could face extinction by the year 2050 due to global warming and that 100 species die each day due to tropical deforestation, it is not absurd to imagine nature as a virtual world.
Hannah Brancato, Baltimore, MD
Cut Pieces, 2012
Used clothing, sewing machine
Looking at the meaning of fabric and textiles in contemporary artistic practice and involving the visitor in the making of the artwork, artist Hannah Brancato both sews quilts and works in a variety of new media, including sound and video. She states that her work “is designed to point out contradictions and injustices, often through storytelling.” Her quilt installation entitled Cut Pieces includes an open call for fabric or garment submissions from the public. Visitors are invited to write a few sentences about their garment’s history, where it came from and how long they had it. Pockets throughout the quilts hold transcriptions of these stories.
Another of Brancato’s interactive works entitled What Gives People Power is a listening booth in which visitors can hear previous audio interviews with domestic violence survivors and perpetrators, as well and staff and volunteers from one of the nation’s leading domestic violence centers, House Of Ruth in Maryland. Brancato states, “The project documents connections between perceptions of power and the cycle of violence. The resulting stories give voice to the stigmatized issue of domestic violence, while bringing to light the diverse ways and means that people empower themselves.”
Brancato’s quilts and listening booth involve the community in participatory works that combine textiles, craft, and decorative surface designs as part of the goal of educating people about social issues and implicating them in the work of art. Making accessible the personal stories of individual subjects participating in the artwork is a major motivation for the artist’s creative process.
The Last Supper, 2012
Pen on panel
A sense of storytelling pervades the artwork of Emily Campbell whose two dimensional drawings visualize wildly utopian scenes and theatrical settings, invented histories, and fictional characters engaging in a variety of acts. All made with pen on board, from a distance each black and white drawing appears nondescript. However, upon closer inspection, a host of erotic and fantastic imagery comes into view. The artist states, “Fictional characters roam through disorienting and often compressed spaces, never completely relating to their surroundings.x Displaced forms, anatomical anomalies and dark psychological interactions proliferate in my work…whimsical elements can turn into the terrifying and grotesque, which stem from combining pop culture, art historical references and my own daily experience.”
Jonathan Duff, Richmond, VA
Imaginary Still Life in Hell, 2012
Acrylic and oil paint on canvas
Drawing inspiration from mundane objects and America’s material, consumer culture as disposable waste, artist Jonathan Duff’s photographic work references catalogs of home décor and furniture companies. The artist finds that the “ultra clean and organized scenes in these catalogs are begging to be soiled.” His two-dimensional abstract paintings combine garish and outdated colors with geometric shapes that enthusiastically embody the definition of generic composition, reminding one of bad 1980s graphic design and corporate lobby art. Occasionally, an aerosol spray squiggle appears in the images, suggesting graffiti or “wildness” in the midst of staid and restrictive environments. Duff’s work both calls our attention to the creative potential and abuse of computer aided design templates.
Nathan Gorgen, Columbus, OH
Luxury Accommodations, 2012
Molded plastic, canvas, wood
Both and whimsical, Nathan Gorgen’s Luxury Accommodations features a portable bathroom in the gallery that follows in the Duchampian readymade tradition. Aside from his gleeful homage to the commercial art of faux finishing in a seemingly sacred space of fine art, the artist creates a cultural monument out of a human waste container. In the United States, where Americans dump 16 tons of sewage into their waters every minute and prefer not to talk about it, the faux finished walls of Gorgen’s sculpture are a conversational catalyst calling museum visitors inside.
Special thanks to PolyJohn Inc.
Oil paint on canvas
Painter Jordan Kasey enjoys “arranging organic forms into images that feel monumental and confrontational...” Kasey’s large and aggressive canvases include surreal-looking portraits of richly colored rocks and, among others, the shell of human heads bursting with coral, sea anemone, and starfish imagery. She states that her works are “more about eliciting an emotional response from the viewer than conveying any specific intellectual or political message.” Kasey’s iconic image of a woman flashing an unseemly smile with her chin resting upon her contorted fingers and painfully arched wrists strikes a note of simultaneous pleasure and pain in the viewer. While fighting the urge to smile back at this archetypal beauty queen, we wrestle with the cartoonish depiction of her face as well as the way the artist severs her portrait just above the tip of her nose, only revealing the lower half of her seductive face. By intentionally excluding her eyes from the portrait, Kasey’s work suggests that while the viewer has the power to gaze upon the image, we still cannot know the full identity of the person depicted. In this sense, Kasey’s unknown and seductive surface manifests a sense of the beautiful and the sublime.
Make Studio, Tony Labate, Baltimore, MD
Barack Obama’s Inauguration, 2013
Ink and colored pencil on paper
Tony Labate is a Make Studio artist known as “a reliably expert source of information about classic films, television, and music of the late 20th century.” Labate illustrates his own version of the election of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s birthday, as well as his 5 Favorite Entertainment Awards, including the Tony, Academy Award, Emmy, Grammy, and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award. Using watercolor and Sharpie marker, Labate’s signature elongated drawing style portrays these ubiquitous cultural icons with a highly subjective slant that personalizes America’s most mass produced and consumed spectacles and televised ceremonies.
Make Studio, Kareem Samuels, Baltmore, MD
Bible Boy, 2012
Ink and colored pencil on paper
Make Studio artist Kareem Samuels approaches pop culture whimsy and cartoon animation to convey the artist’s spiritual perspective on contemporary culture. Creating a heroic alter ego for himself named “Bible Boy,” Samuels depicts a caped character wearing eyeglasses and in another colorful drawing, accompanied by three formidable “Bible” heroines or “Angels” who fight to spread the gospel with him. Using watercolor, acrylic, Sharpie, marker, and colored pencil, Samuels develops colorful and highly idiosyncratic imagery that contextualizes his own identity and personal religious quest as a clever and powerful cartoon character tackling the world.
Make Studio, Gary Schmedes, Baltimore, MD
Will Bunny and Kitty Help the Lorax?, 2012
Ink and watercolor
Working in colored pencil, Sharpie marker, watercolor, and ink, Make Studio artist Schmedes draws cartoons characters inspired by Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, Warner Brothers’ Minerva Mink, and Hans Christian Anderson’s character Grundel Toad from Thumbelina. His spare compositions mix characters from different TV shows and include talk bubbles above the characters articulating their struggle to overcome particular obstacles—from saving the environment to deciding whom to date.
Vincent Valerio, Baltimore, MD
The Vincenzo Couture Experience, 2012 - Present
Mixed media installation and interactive performance
The surface of things preoccupies artist and fashion designer Vincent Valerio. Branding his own clothing line Vincenzo Couture, the artist creates wildly wearable sculpture that references the history of American pop culture and TV shows such as Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse and Leave it to Beaver. While Valerio performs the role of designer, he also models the clothes and stages fashion shoots for which he and other models strike a pose. Valerio also invites the viewer to try on his outfits and pose for a live digital photograph in the gallery, performing in one’s own fashion shoot. In contrast to form-fitting clothing designed for the supermodel thin frame, Vincenzo Couture features collapsible suits that could fit practically anyone as they appear to be fashioned after circus tents made of bright colors patterns. Whereas Jordan Kasey’s intimidating image of a woman’s mouth may conjure feelings of desire and repulsion within the viewer, Valerio’s photographs of smiling female models provoke humorous reactions as they appear to embrace the clown-like role his costumes require. Valerio states he is influenced by the loss of childhood innocence and collective joy and celebratory acts in American culture. His clothes do not constrict and separate the individual but house people under universally enormous sizes and “crazy” fabric. Donning the clothes, the viewer steps into a different guise, becoming someone else for a brief period of time.