FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANNOUNCING: CONCRETE JUNGLE
NEW PAINTINGS BY JOSHUA VON AMMON & ELI WALKER, CURATED BY JUSTIN HUNTER ALLEN
@ CIRCUIT 12 CONTEMPORARY, 1130 DRAGON ST, SUITE 150, Dallas, TX 75207
EXHIBITION DATES 05.18.13 – 06.13.13
SCAB members Justin Hunter Allen, Joshua Von Ammon, and Eli Walker are collaborating to bring Concrete Jungle to Circuit 12 Contermporary. Ammon and Walker present new paintings curated by Allen. Concrete Jungle creates a tribal, modernist society within the gallery as a reflection of the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. The film is interpereted through these artists as describing a time of great dissatisfaction but also great energy. The artists’ approach embodies this sentiment by creating an infrastructure that is shaped and inhabited by its people and their production. For the Second Installment of Regional Quarterly at Circuit 12 the artists will occupy the gallery to reenact the primal representiation of artist and community.
LETTER FROM THE CURATOR:
A WAY TO RECTIFY THE PERCEIVED LACK OF CORRELATION BETWEEN THE ARTISTIC PHILOSOPHY OF CONCRETE JUNGLE (2013) AND BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (1955)
DADIER: THE MAN
BELAZI: ANY MAN
WEST: A MAN
“We… the United States… our communities… our… American youth.
–its causes–and its effects… boils over…
The… incidents… are fictional.
However… awareness… is a… problem.
It is in this spirirt and with this faith that [B.J.] was produced…
*SHOULD OLD ACQAINTENCE BE FORGOT, AND NEVER COME TO MIND? SHOULD OLD ACQUAINTENCE BE FORGOT, AND OLD LANG SYNE?*
DADIER: NOW PRETTY SOON YOURE GOING TO… WANT… TO BUY… VERY EXPENSIVE… ABBREVIATIOINS… ABBREVIATIONS…
DADIER: …BELAZI… HELP…THOSE ABBREVIATIONS…
WEST: HE’S NOT GOING TO…
BELAZI: …NOT GONNA BUY ME…
WEST: …THAT’S ARITHMETIC TEACH
DADIER: ALRIGHT… DOWN…
WEST: HOW’D YOU LIKE TO GO TO HELL
WEST: …YOU… TELL… DO THIS DO THAT…
KNIFE COMES OUT
WEST: …STEP RIGHT UP AND TASTE A LITTLE OF THIS DADDY-O”
– JUSTIN HUNTER ALLEN
Why 7 local artists say the Dallas art scene is a sham — and what they are doing about it
There is a tiny collective of artists in Dallas that thinks the whole art scene is “a fake, fitted out with a tremendous affectation” writes scholar MICHAEL CORRIS. Are they right? Is there an antidote? Meet seven jagged little pills.
produced and photographed by NAN COULTER
There is a joke that circulates in the art world, and it goes like this: “The first work of art was a painting. The first piece of art criticism was on the death of painting.”
This sort of paternalistic doom-mongering can be applied to anything, really, but the conclusion is always the same: Things were better in the old days. Everything’s gone downhill since. Why are you folks wasting your time?
If I told you that a number of artists in Dallas have banded together under the moniker Socialized Contemporary Art Bureau, you might be forgiven your skepticism. After all, it is not exactly bracing news that artists, seeking to make a world of their own in an art world not of their making, might decide to cooperate rather than compete with each other. Furthermore, how good could these folks be as artists if they don’t have the bottle to go it alone? Well, if you believe that, you are wrong.
Eli Walker, Kelly Kroener, Justin Hunter Allen, Lucy Kirkman, Joshua von Ammon, Samantha McCurdy, Alexander DiJulio, Michael Alexander Morris and Frank Darko — seven of whom are in this story — are young artists who are doing a pretty good job of carving up the Dallas art scene and serving it back to us on a silver platter. You might say that the chickens have come home to roost, since some of these artists are native to Dallas.
The art world we have known up to now appears to S.C.A.B. to be a fake, fitted out with a tremendous affectation. “Let us take leave of these precincts of counterfeit social and intellectual engagements,” they cry. “Let us make ourselves a world and fill it with art that is fit-for-purpose in our world.” So, to know their art, you must know their world. And to know their world is to know ours; to reconsider ours remade with equal parts improvisation and recrimination. The world of S.C.A.B. is a world of people, art and spaces. It is a world in motion: New faces appear and bond to the group; new galleries and display sites spring up overnight; and all the while the artists of S.C.A.B. bring the materials of art to life.
It is part of the challenge of being an artist today to find a subject worth pursuing. But there is a paradox lurking in this prosaic charge: The range of an artist’s legitimate subject matter is expanding hugely, while the artist’s métier is dissolving in a haze of improvisation. The de-skilling of the artist is a trend that really took hold in the 1960s, when the idea that one was a painter or sculptor or printmaker, et cetera, imploded and left us with a new and puzzling thought: The value of art was not dependent on either traditional craft skill or a devotion to the exploration of a specific medium. When artists broke out of the traditional constraints of art, art ceased to resemble art. It began to look like nothing so much as the furniture and fixtures of everyday life.
Placing S.C.A.B. within this trajectory — a historical context that appears at first to be nothing other than the longue durée of the avant-garde — illuminates and obscures their purpose, pleasures and predicaments. The members of the S.C.A.B. collective spiritedly inhabit the role of contemporary artist as makers of worlds that sit uneasily between the known and the utterly mad. I read their project as one of survival fused with aesthetic jobbing. Seek out their work in venues such as Homeland Security, Studio Don’t F*** This Up or the Angstrom Gallery, a commercial gallery that S.C.A.B. appears to have colonized with the blessings of its owner, David Quadrini. Drench yourself in the bombastic paintings of Eli Walker, the delicate typographic pictures of Lucy Kirkman, the faintly distressing constructions of Alexander DiJulio, the radiant intimacy of Kelly Kroener’s soft furnishings and the testing digital interventions of Michael Morris. Expose yourself to Joshua von Ammon’s punctured shamanism and conversations in the void or Frank Darko’s warming approach to documentary filmmaking. Enter the icy frame of Samantha McCurdy’s vogue and Justin Hunter Allen’s melancholia.
The subject of these artists is sincerity spoken through materials that cannot help but falsify. Still, the spirit of S.C.A.B. does not entirely force the material into submission. As Jiro Yoshihara, the founder of the Gutai group, wrote in another country at another time: “If one leaves the material as it is, presenting it just as material, then it starts to tell us something and speaks with a mighty voice. Keeping the life of the material alive also means bringing the spirit alive, and lifting up the spirit means leading the material up to the height of the spirit.” Of course, Yoshihara’s manifesto proclaims an art that is based on performance and participation. Yet if I were asked to generalize about the art of the S.C.A.B. collective, I’d say that they also yearn to break free of the constraints of a moribund culture of art. In S.C.A.B.’s world, spirit and material are having quite a natter: unscripted, distracted, alive.
“KELLY KROENER is a native of rural Ohio. She studied sculpture and fashion at the School of Art Institute Chicago and worked with at-risk students in Baltimore, an experience that has profoundly marked her work as an artist. Using textiles as her medium, Kroener has created knit cozies for videocassettes and a stunning group of abstract paintings masquerading as pillows. Her work often starts from a position of great humility, creating objects that are generally overlooked — because they are found in every household — but impossible to do without. Kroener is in conversation with a long tradition of artists for whom the domestic setting is a place of comfort and confrontation and a platform for reflections on gender and class. Kroener’s work reminds us that one must be mindful of straying too far from either studio or home; hence the title of a recent solo exhibition, “Groundwork.”
JUSTIN HUNTER ALLEN studied art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York, then spent a few years on the Continent, as one does, taking a well-deserved break from the intrigues of the art world’s trading floor. Allen presents himself as an enigma, but his art is anything but the strong, silent type. Like so many of his peers nurtured in the hothouse of the New York art scene, Allen’s art gravitates toward modest, yet consequential, gestures. A smallish work titled Wave, 2008 presents an animated square of acrylic color on cardboard mounted on a stretcher. It could be a riff on Blinky Palermo or Richard Tuttle, except the lower right corner of the cardboard is migrating from its base as if acknowledging our presence. I am not certain if the painting is waving or drowning. His Darling, after all these years (Is there sex after T.V.?), 2012, above, is like a visual noises-off, an entombed bit of interference that one imagines could have taken place slightly offside of an erotic tête-à-tête.
ELI WALKER was born in Dallas and studied painting at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Hoffberger School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Walker talks about the Chicago painter Ed Paschke’s practice of inviting people over to mess up one of his paintings. The after-party is the scene of a solitary artist working to cure the surface and to restore his balance. This is an approach that Walker has adopted, but he has dispensed with the booze and the invitations: He is a one-man band, playing the role of creator and destroyer. That’s why Walker’s paintings look like the artist has gone just a bit too far in the land of failure. It sounds contrived because you might think that it’s easy to ruin a good painting. Well, not really if you are an artist; the tendency is to down your brushes before you even get close to that point. Walker’s time in Chicago also left him with a profound love for the ethos of do-it-yourself. Along with Kelly Kroener, he moved to Dallas, where the couple quickly began to attract like-minded artists around them. A circle formed and S.C.A.B. was born, the name coined by Joshua von Ammon. Walker and Kroener christened their first studio Homeland Security. The name stuck and now graces their new home in the Cedars, where the public is invited to encounter art in a space that is clean, but not necessarily well-lit.
My first encounter with LUCY KIRKMAN’s art was her jewel-like delicacy, Ab-Ex, 2011, above. Kirkman’s model for this work is a sheet of commemorative United States Postal Service postage stamps depicting iconic works by post-war American painters, which she dutifully repaints at the same miniscule scale. We have seen the domestication of high art masculinist display before, particularly in the art of Sherrie Levine during the early portion of her career where she reworked in watercolor textbook-sized reproductions of the iconic works of Modern (male) masters; Lucy’s iterations, however, are not about negation in precisely this sense. As we follow her more recent work, a profoundly literary sensibility begins to make itself felt. Her aesthetic is one that owes as much to Borges as it does to Louise Bourgeois. These are works of interiority, resonant with the act of reading or rummaging through the libraries of others. Lucy discovers quite a lot by reading other’s well-read books; their absent-minded marginalia is more often than not her main course.
ALEXANDER DIJULIO’s Crito, 2012, above, is quite the neo-Romantic emblem, all beauty and the beast, gravity and grace. Even though Damien Hirst killed butterflies forever for art — achieving, perhaps, what Hallmark cards could never do in the common culture — DiJulio’s work offers the order Lepidoptera amnesty. Titled after a dialogue by Plato on the nature of justice and the social contract, Alexander’s collage shows us tar, Texas linen and wildlife in an impossible ecology that screams: “Talk is cheap!” DiJulio, a native of Philadelphia, is another Maryland Institute College of Art alumnus. His working method is to gather found objects. While the resultant work seems to be rather well-behaved and aesthetically pleasing as allegories of the real, his intention is to recover the real from our befogging-image world — a world that a ponderous art historian once assembled for all to marvel at, under the name (and book) “A Forest of Signs.” One might say — forgive me, Alexander — that this man can see the forest for the trees.
SAMANTHA MCCURDY, a bachelor of fine arts graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art, makes paintings that are really polychrome low-relief sculptures. She has a history of working in performance art, which explains why she also posed semi-nude models rather provocatively displaying her paintings. The women in these photographic tableaux have their modesty: Painted jumpers or knickers camouflage their partial nudity. The illusion of the fully clothed model mirrors the dishevelment of the part-painting, part-sculpture object offered to our gaze. Macy’s, 2012, above, a collage with wax on canvas, is all disembodied legs and pumps, referring once again to a partial body. These are fantasy images that trade on a certain kind of fetishism while allowing for peaceful coexistence between some otherwise quite perilous psychological states. Détente meets Dior.
JOSHUA VON AMMON plays with words, inventing ingenious, purpose-built monotype devices to create large-scale texts. The texts are usually just fragments, painstakingly inscribed character by character. They are always provocative because of how they self-consciously intersect with text-based work associated with artists concerned with race or identity. Von Ammon has also produced a series of mask-like small paintings, each one a burlesque on the figure of the shaman. The masks fashioned from paper bags by Saul Steinberg come to mind, mainly because I detect a shared sense of whimsy. Combined with the text-based works — also a favorite pastime of Steinberg’s — I find Von Ammon’s recipe of typography and mock-terror nicely dark but not overly so. He also spent time studying art at the School of Art Institute of Chicago and then lived and worked in Prague, a celebrated nexus of satire. Alongside Frank Darko, Von Ammon is a co-creator of “Conversations in the Void,” an Internet program featuring interviews with artists in and around Dallas.
MICHAEL CORRIS is an artist, writer and educator. He is the chair of the Division of Art at Southern Methodist University. He is an editor of Transmission Annual, a thematic anthology of art and culture co-published by SMU and Sheffield-Hallam University in Sheffield, England. His email is email@example.com.
There’s a Gallery in a Couple’s House in the Cedars, with Paintings You Should Probably See
|Brendan Carroll, Windows Walls and Screens (Rearviewmirror), oil on canvas, 2012|
Just up the street from Lee Harvey’s in the Cedars neighborhood of South Dallas is the home of a young couple that doubles as an art gallery called Homeland Security.An exhibit there, Windows, Walls and Screens: New Paintings by Brendan Carroll, sees the work of the smart young Atlanta artist placed on the living room walls and in the kitchen, “bridging the gap between what a home is and what a gallery is,” according to Kelly Kroener, who, with partner Eli Walker, lives in the hybrid space. (They are also artists and members of the S.C.A.B. collective).
See also: The rest of Betsy Lewis’ art reviews
|Brendan Carroll, Windows Walls and Screens (Present Tense), oil on canvas, 2012|
Carroll’s abstract paintings perform the admirable feat of responding to the unique characteristics of the space. The gold-bronze-orange compositions in the living room have the earthy palette of structured sunrises and sunsets, snap into expressive focus where thick, angular marks of paint upset steady horizontal layers, as in “Windows Walls and Screen (Rearviewmirror)” (2012). The rock star of this series is “Windows Walls and Screens (Present Tense)” (2012), with its choreographed intrusion of synthetic ultramarine blue (undergraduate art students will shout “Yves Klein Blue! It’s Yves Klein Blue!” But I’m not so quick to classify every ultramarine hue with that particular label.)For kicks, Carroll replicated his brush strokes onto Homeland Security’s homely windowpanes, leaving the residue of the mark in dirt and Vaseline, and looking for all the world like ghosts of the paintings next to them. The known order of the American living room is thoroughly — but aesthetically! — unsettled.
|Brendan Carroll, Windows Walls and Screens (Brain of J.), oil on canvas, 2013|
In the kitchen are several studies on paper and Carroll’s two most recent paintings, both from this year, with lines that stay inside the frame, bouncing off the edges and seizing control of the movement of your eyeball (or mine, anyway). Carroll said he painted a landscape on the canvas first, then added the layers that would become “Windows Walls and Screens (Pilate)” and “Windows Walls and Screens (Brain of J.).” Nothing of those landscapes is visible to you and me, but knowing this delightful piece of Carroll’s working process does hint at his meaning behind the titles of his work. The “Brain of J.” piece was mesmerizing. If you think there’s even a slim chance you might see that painting next weekend, clear your schedule for the rest of the afternoon, ’cause you ain’t going anywhere.
Windows, Walls and Screens: New Paintings by Brendan Carroll runs through March 23rd at Homeland Security, with regular hours (noon – 5 p.m.) on Saturday and Sunday, and also by appointment.
Windows, Walls and Screens: New Paintings by Brendan Carroll
Opening Reception: Friday, Feb. 22, from 6:00pm to 10:00pm
1715 Gould St
Dallas, TX 75215
Homeland Security is pleased to present Windows, Walls and Screens: New Paintings by Brendan Carroll. Carroll received his MFA at the Hoffberger Painting School at Maryland Institute College of Art and currently lives and works in Atlanta. He frequently draws inspiration from his experience working in neuropsychology research. He has worked in labs investigating mood disorders and memory at Columbia University by administrating fMRI scans.
Carroll synthesizes his experience with psychology and art to create formal paintings that interpret perception. With his current work, Carroll takes on the notion of a painting being a ‘window’ or ‘wall.” By combining the attributes of both, he directs us to consider painting more as a ‘screen’ that conveys manipulated and obscured information. The screen requires a decision: to ignore, to focus, or to determine its effects. To include the screen in the evaluation of one’s view requires concentration, introspection, or at least a keen awareness of the environment.
Introducing these paintings to the domestic gallery of Homeland Security activates the living area by being placed between the windows and around the furniture in the room. This arrangement can be considered as a strait-forward art hanging or as a comprehension of alternating planes of perception.
Windows, Walls and Screens will be on view February 22nd – March 23rd with an opening reception on Friday, February 22nd between 6:00pm-10:00pm. Homeland Security is located at 1715 Gould Street, Dallas TX. next door to Lee Harvey’s Bar and two blocks East of the Cedars Rail Station.