John Bankston, Hyonae Blakenship, Brian Calvin, Lora Fosberg, Dr. Lakra, Mark Anthony Mulligan, Old Tafo, Eric Thompson, Gelsy Berna, Susan Moody Ward, Chris Ware, and Anne Wilson.
This exhibition, curated by Don Baum, featured an eclectic selection of paintings, drawings and prints stemming from two sources – an individual approach to content and formal presentation and the unique resonance of each artists ability to challenge traditional formal and conceptual art making categories. The works of each artist were chosen to provided a panoramic view of their art practice but as explained by the curator in several cases, larger and perhaps more important works were intentionally not included.
Brian Calvin’s large canvases, that appropriated the Popeye image extended in a dramatic manner the more intimate, magical quality of the smaller pictures on view in the exhibition. Susan Ward’s autobiographical gouache works on paper were taken from dreams of dangerous situations. Ward however made these psychological scenarios appear inviting to her viewer. The larger intaglio prints by Eric Thompson of knives, ice picks, and hacksaws suggested surgical instruments and inferred a menacing tone despite their small format. Similarly, Lora Forsberg’s prints were also of modest size but distilled the breath of human excess and suffering, through the investigation of erotic experience and repression. The necessity to produce visual statements was a common aspect in all of the artists’ work, regardless of their origins or academic backgrounds. In the exhibition, a barber sign by little known artist from Ghana read “Play Boy Art Old Tafo.” It talked about the awareness of personality traits as well as a surprising variation in concept of the human diversity of identity politics. Such signs, commonly used in third-world countries to advertise hair styles, provide the possibility of the customer’s identification with a choice of a particular type. Anne Wilson’s fascination with hair in her “physical drawings” used hair to stitch around the found holes in old linen cloth, which produced an ambiguous and surreal effect in its references to the body. Korean-born artist Hyonae Blakenship created mixed media pieces by stitching onto handmade papers. Influenced by the Korean tradition of storytelling practices by her grandmother Blakenship’s artworks were narrative in nature and illustrated the artist’s own personal stories. Also involved in story telling was artist Chris Ware. Ware used a cartoon format for his characters Jimmy Corrigan and Quimby Mouse. Ware’s use of a familiar cartoon format presented a paradox for readers who may have expected a straightforward linear development of an episode. Instead Ware presented the lives of these invented characters as interwoven in their interactions with each other. Mark Anthony Mulligan’s intricate drawings on poster board in crayon, pen, pencil and marker reflected his experiences of the visual information available in the landscapes of Louisville, Kentucky. Another artist inspired by the urban environment was “Dr. Lakra,”. Born in Jeronimo, Mexico he decided to assume a name which in colloquial language roughly translated to “human garbage” or a “totally worthless person.” Once studying to be a tattoo artist, “Dr. Larka” used this visual language to create drawings packed with old B-movie ads, cartoon characters, freakish figures, and common people of the streets. Rarely beginning with a blank surface or a preconceived drawing Gelsy Verna’s painting-collages were inspired by an object or form (such as a profile or silhouette). Verna referred to a process of “accumulation” to develop her work for this exhibition.