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optimistic american discords

Art | March 2, 2010 |

Optimistic American Discords
A New Generation of Artists from the United States

Opening Reception: Friday 19th March 2010 at 8 pm
Dates: 19th March – 16th April 2010
Curators: Edward Lucie-Smith and Roni Feldman

Location: Werkstattgalerie, Eisenacher Str. 6, Berlin


Jon Barwick, Roni Feldman, Elizabeth Ferry, Ryan Peter Miller, Grant Vetter, Casey Vogt The six young American artists in this show have formed a group that they have named ‘Cacophonic’. Forming groups is, of course, the traditional way in which young artists band together in order to get a hearing. Think, for example, of the Futurists at the start of the 20th century and of the Surrealists who followed them. Roni Feldman, a member of the group and my co-curator, says that their work is a reaction to a decade that began with planes crashing into the World Trade Center in New York, and ended with an equally resounding economic crash – a period of “complexity and dissonance, marked by a clamorous rise in technology, especially the technology of information, as well as by wars and other forms of disaster.” He and his colleagues engage with a world of conflicting values, in the visual arts as well as in politics, and welcome the uproar that results. “We are wary of didacticism.” He says, “and recognize that a work of art is, first and foremost, a unique sensory experience. The balance between content and physical presence in our work reflects an enduring optimism in the face of the odds that we believe is typical of our generation of American artists.”

Jon Barwick constructs mixed-media paintings that acknowledge the hyper-paced, technologydriven, media-saturated society of the Twenty-First Century. The multi-layered compositions reflect the complexities of the information age, and capture the singular moment of everything happening at once. Imagery for these works originate as drawings and doodles but are scanned, photographed, printed, or redrawn before reaching the final composition. By maintaining a dialogue between the hand-drawn and computer-generated, Barwick creates visual metaphors for our day-today interaction with technology. The resultant fields of color and imagery are at once beautiful andoverwhelming. They present a sublimation of information. Roni Feldman applies the blurred, ethereal nature of airbrushed acrylic to paint multitudinous human features. He forms tensions between individual and crowd, abstraction and representation.

Using varying degrees of matte and gloss black paint, the imagery may be invisible at first glance, but as viewers pass before them, the figures refract revealing an elaborate composition. In them, whirls of figures celebrate, mourn, protest, consume, dance, and embrace alongside others that drown, burn, and dissolve. Feldman’s crowds evoke the power and ecstasy of unified intention alongside a potential descent into mob mentality. The compositions recall the idealistic pursuit of 1960’s psychedelia, van murals, and other airbrush art forms, but in Feldman’s work, airbrushed paint is like a thin veil that separates utopia and dystopia, civilization and chaos.

Elizabeth Ferry blurs the edges between the corporeal and ethereal. Ranging from simple grids to elaborate stacks of folded fabric, Ferry composes color and form into rhythms that perpetually, illusionistically reconfigure themselves. Through carefully cued light and site sensitivity, they shift from mundane materials to enigmatically charged visual sensations. For example, at first glance Ferry’s grids appear as formal white structures set upon a wall painted with bright colors. However, a move from side to side reveals that the edges of the structure are painted with discordant dashes of fluorescent hues that refract upon the wall. Subverting the fast pace of everyday transactions between people, places, and information, Ferry applies abstraction and illusion to offer moments of sensitive reflection.

Ryan Peter Miller uses paint as both his material and subject. Each of Miller’s works expresses an inventive application of paint. In one work, he applies paint as multitudinous stacked units in a tower. In another work he casts acrylic paint as puzzle pieces. In a third piece, Miller casts a full body self portrait in white acrylic paint. For Miller, paint is raw material, loaded with turgid historical significance, that can be grouped and restructured into non-traditional supports. Miller calls painting a democratic process, reflective and responsive to history and culture, but with endless potential for evolution and re-contextualization.

Grant Vetter’s Rendition paintings are slathered with sinewy gobs of fleshy hues. The works effect the transcendent painterliness of Abstract Expressionism, but also the corporeal gore and almost forensic examination of mutilated skin. The word “rendition” implies a subjective experience or recollection, but is also defined as “deportation for war crimes” and “torture by proxy.” Although Abstract expressionism was often seen as a symbol of democratic freedom and individual expression, Vetter explicitly takes up the themes of trauma, subjection and oppression as it relates to the current War on Terror.

Casey Vogt creates ornate, mandala-like compositions that serve as a backdrop for politicallycharged figurative scenes. The most recent figures explore Americans’ relationships to drug use, the War On Drugs, and the pharmaceutical industry. The backgrounds are composed of masses of layered dots and myriad colors, recalling a pharmacopoeia of pills.. They act as a painterly and metaphysical contrast to the socio-political narratives presented by the figures. With their euphoric colors and psychedelic compositions, Vogt’s work proposes painting as another mind-altering substance.

Optimistic American Discords
Opening Reception: Friday 19th March 2010 at 8 pm
Berlin Collective Presents Artist Talks and Conversation with Marc Glöde, Curator & Sophie Eliot, Art Scholar Sunday 21st March 2010 at 5 pm

Eisenacher Str. 6
D-10777 Berlin

Location near Nollendorfplatz U1-U4, Bus M19, 187
opening Hours: Tu-Fr 12-20h, Sa 12-18h

phone: +49.30.21002158
email: info@werkstattgalerie.org
web: www.werkstattgalerie.org

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