October 18 - November 30, 2014
ART HISTORY AS A PROGRESSIVE TIMELINE IS OBSOLETE. Yet, try as we might, we can’t seem to shake the belief in a narrative thrust that takes us from the idea of the primitive cave painting, to the sophistication of abstraction, onto the indulgences of post modernism; each age cumulatively adding to the weight of Art, until we find ourselves all but crushed by the heavy accretion of high culture. Is art a relentless progressive development of simple ideas to the increasingly complex, or does each era and culture possess the skills attuned to express their culture in a way that transcends linear progression?
A charging auroch painted on the wall of the cave in Lascaux shows no less dynamism than a haystack by Monet. What does separate them, besides the wide gulf of time, is their intent. We want to believe that the Lascaux painter was painting an auroch in the hope that the image would conjure up the reality (we have no proof that this is so), while Monet was studying the way light changed on an object hour by hour through the day (he was able to tell us this was so). Intent is the fuel of the art world. It keeps the train of ideas chugging along, from chiaroscuro to Baroque, from the Academy to geometric abstraction artists are full of ideas. Art history is littered with fallen ideas and ways of thinking which are intriguing to consider in the context of their time — in some cases still moving and thrilling to experience — nevertheless, in present practice we perceive them as obsolete. What do we do with the artist who tries to resurrect cubism or impressionism today? That again depends on their intent; are they trying to trick Sotheby’s or make a buck at Art Around the Park?
For the latest Curious Matter exhibition, in collaboration with Art House Productions, we have taken the notion of Obsolescence, whether it be ideas, materials or the very concept of objectness, and given it over to the artists to see how yesterday’s news influences our work now.
Many of the artists exhibiting in Obsolescence found their inspiration through media that has become outmoded because of the rise in digitization of imagery. Michael Ensminger makes a comment on the death of painting with “Drift, 2014.” Using a found paint-by-number, he whites out the central portion, symbolically erasing the entire history of Western Art. Using the antique photographic method of cyanotype, Guillaume Légaré (“Ghost no. 5”) not only informs us that film is dead, but his imagery of the ghost drives the point home.
Robert Gould and Jason Scott Kofke both explore bygone technology in their work. Gould’s collage (“Fallen Zeppelin”) of the skeleton of a zeppelin speaks to the brief history of this ultimately, tragically unsafe method of transportation. Kofke’s “Everything Will Be OK, 1956” takes the concept of how rapidly technology advances by presenting his drawing of a space console, c. 1956, on a turn-of-the-century piano roll, juxtaposing two outmoded technologies, both of which have their nostalgic appeal.
Julie McHargue and Anne Percoco invigorate old items by recycling them into new works. McHargue’s “Vessel 3” uses a coil of zippers to construct a tapering vessel, while Percoco (“Field Studies”) adapts the outmoded yellow pages telephone book into elaborately verdant landscapes from the plant imagery she found within.
Ross Bennett Lewis brings into focus the precarious fate of art itself with his photograph “Eero Saarinen for TWA”. This building has been in the news recently when it was announced that it would be replaced, then repurposed, and now waits in limbo. Long considered a master- piece of modern architecture, Saarinen’s TWA Terminal has become obsolete as a transporta- tion hub since air travel has grown in popularity and the technology of the building has become superseded by larger and more accommodating development.
Time moves on. We as a people are constantly looking for a new horizon, a better way of doing a task, or fresher coat of paint. We are somehow never satisfied with what we have accomplished. This drive for better and more has brought us miraculous inventions and lifted us out of the trees and into skyscrapers. But how sustainable is our appetite for the new? The artists of Obsolescence present alternatives and opinions, if not answers to that quandary.