March 16 - May 5, 2013
March 16 - April 29, 2013
March 16 - May 11, 2013
Signs and Symbols: From Street Art to High Art
Signs and Symbols: From Street Art to High Art showcases internationally renowned and groundbreaking works by: Keith Haring, Banksy, Barry McGee, Heretic, Cryptik, David P. Flores, Shepard Fairey, Robbie Conal and MearOne. Now a global practice, the artists in this exhibition span a geographic range from Los Angeles to New York and London and pioneered the street art movement by using the urban matrix as their canvas. They continue to create guerilla works of art using stickers, murals, paint, templates, wheat paste, and video projections to transform the dialogue about where art may or may not be placed and sanctioned. Collectively, the artists are master editors, using only the most relevant signs, symbols and materials to achieve the greatest visual impact in a short period of time. They question the commercialization of art by changing the materials they employ and selecting alternative places in which their works appear.
The term street art is used to distinguish between two opposites: government and corporate sponsored public art works and the unsanctioned tagging of territorial graffiti. The practice is a form of visual activism by artists who often feel disenfranchised by the codification and standards of art-making in the public realm. Disenfranchisement is a strong motivator and the street artists represented here have revolutionized the way public space is utilized to convey socio-political messages to everyday people who may not frequent museums and galleries. The artwork is eventually taken out of its local context by commercial galleries and museums, the very institutions many artists intend to avoid. Other street artists welcome the influx of their work in the commercial realm, embracing it as an opportunity for their messages to reach larger audiences.
Over the last decade, the street art movement gained considerable notoriety with the public through widespread acclaim for the element of surprise. As a new work of art appeared on the street overnight, neighbors and communities either relished or fought against the phenomena, generating a vibrant social currency that fuels the artists. Most street artists are working for the people and are driven by the effect of mobilizing the community into action.
Gary Lang: Whim Wham
The Lancaster Museum of Art and History presents Gary Lang: Whim Wham an intimate selection of Lang’s acclaimed circle paintings accompanied by his never before seen word paintings. The two bodies of work may at first appear unrelated, yet they are inextricably linked by a union of opposites and similarities—both through the process in which they are created and in Lang’s quest for reconciling the space between beauty and pain in contemporary times.
Lang began working on his minimalist circle paintings in the 1980’s and quickly became internationally renowned for his ability to engender a physical connection to the sublime through his radiating color combinations. When viewed from a distance, his paintings propel the viewer into an unrelenting optical experience that transcends everyday concerns. The colors blend and shift, deepen and soften, and awaken and pulsate in conversation with one another, taking the viewer on a phenomenological joy ride. As one moves closer to the work, the artist’s hand—and his remarkable affection for the materiality of paint—is revealed.
In the 1970’s, prior to the birth of his circle paintings, Lang had sustained a quiet practice of writing text on paper and painting words in books that he positioned on his paint mixing tables. He eventually began making word paintings in concert with his large canvasses. On the surface, the word paintings function as an immediate repository for the excess pigment left over from his monumental canvasses: he simply moves from the canvas to the paper to “clean” the brush. Lang’s improvisational cleansing process ultimately yields words and phrases that expose his deeply poetic response to the concepts of truth, religion, power and tragedy. Lang has methodically practiced this private ritual since the bombing of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Just days before 9 -11, Lang moved his family from their New York City loft—where the World Trade Center towers were visible from the kitchen window—to Southern California, where Lang was born. Lang expresses that this event turned him toward words “in an effort to understand how they are used, abused, and manipulated by agenda and temper as well as to serve the heart.” He has equally found that he associates the words "real" and "true” with the momentary quality of painting in the here and now.
Exhibited together for the first time, Gary Lang: Whim Wham invites the viewer to witness the fruits of Lang’s private ritual, sparking an adventure among color-saturated objects that assist us in transcending the everyday to traversing the intellectual pursuit of words, asking of us to reconcile the beauty and mystery of life with the tragedy of the human condition.
Jorg Dubin: My Facebook Friends
Jorg Dubin: My Facebook Friends is a contemporary exploration of identity through the fragmented lens of social media. Dubin’s portraits are painted directly from his Facebook friends’ profile pictures, many of whom the artist has never met or whom mostly remain unknown to him. The power of the work emerges from the identity fragmentation that occurs in the virtual world, and is strengthened by the clues into the visage of social media that Dubin provides the viewer. By turning unknown virtual “friends” into his painted subjects, he delivers small treasures from which to begin questioning the motives of identity in the digital age.
Dubin, a skilled painter, departed from his classical, representational training and has become well regarded for his expressive explorations of the human condition. His large figurative paintings depict the fragility of human physicality: many of his subjects have undergone physical harm through illness or misfortune or simply through the choices made in life. Dubin explores these realities by blanketing his subjects in oily, acerbic painterly color and roots them in surreal and often grotesque scenes. These larger works are generous visual narratives, whereas his small Facebook oil sketches convey only fragments such as an eye, nose or mouth. These singular sketches ask of us to fill in the gaps, prompting one to contemplate the concept of superficiality through the accumulation of friends. The installation as a whole creates an entirely new friend: one that questions our desire to be needed, to be seen, to be heard and investigates how social media has changed human interaction and communication.
Dubin lives and works in Laguna Beach, California. He studied at the Art Institute of Southern California and is a lecturer at Laguna College of Art and Design. Dubin shows extensively in the region, with several solo and group shows at Robert Berman Gallery, Santa Monica, CA; Peter Blake Gallery, Laguna Beach; Guggenheim Gallery, Chapman University, Orange, CA; and Blue Gallery, Kansas City, MO among many others. His work is widely published in art journals and magazines including: ArtScene Magazine, Artillery Magazine, Orange County Register, Coast Magazine, Sacramento Bee and Riviera Magazine.
Guillermo Bert: The Bar Code Series
Chilean artist Guillermo Bert has long been fascinated with the concept of encrypting messages, language and ideas beneath the “skin” of his artwork. He embeds this concept by incorporating contemporary bar codes with Inca, Maya, and Mapuche religious icons, each rendered in gold, thereby creating hybrid relics and proposing a new mythology. His panels are engraved and carved, much like the stonework of ancient civilizations. This process of engraving and encoding allows Bert to question the price of core values such as democracy and justice, while blurring the lines between culture and commodities. Using the bar code—the quintessential symbol of consumerism and branding as a form of contemporary conquest—Bert provides a critical comment on the effects of globalization and the western consumerist model.
Bert lives and works in Los Angeles and shows extensively in the United States and South America, including the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach CA, the San Diego Museum of Art in San Diego CA, the Fowler Museum at UCLA, the Museum of Tolerance and the Architectural Design Museum both in Los Angeles, and the Pasadena Museum of California Art. He is the recipient of many awards and grants and has been commissioned to create a number of public art works.
Susan Sironi: Altered Books
Los Angeles based artist Susan Sironi received her BFA from California State University, Long Beach and studied color still photography at Orange Coast College. Her early work in urban photography and assemblage lead to her collecting vintage materials with a focus on vintage books. Since 2003 she has used vintage books to express the inconsistencies and frustrations of a world that clings to past conventions while striving for future ideals. Her first altered books were text only and were meticulously cut page-by-page. The advent of the Internet provided Sironi with the ability to acquire multiple copies of books while scanning technology allowed for the precise cutting of entire books. This blending of old and new technologies is central to Sironi’s approach: each book promotes an alternative reading of the accepted norms and conventions of the past. By altering the information the viewer sees, Sironi transforms the books into new visual and conceptual forms while retaining clues from their former identity and history.
Exhibiting primarily in Los Angeles, Sironi's work has also been shown at the Laguna Museum of Art and the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, MA. She is represented by Offramp Gallery in Pasadena.
Thomas McGovern: Sign Language, Notes from the High Desert
Sign Language, Notes from the High Desert showcases the distinguished work of Southern California photographer Thomas McGovern. McGovern’s new work was made specifically for and about the Antelope Valley and is part of a larger documentary project called Vital Signs. The Vital Signs series documents hand-painted signs and murals throughout the Inland Empire region of Southern California, starting with the City of San Bernardino. The great Mexican muralist tradition has an obvious influence in the region, but these signs and murals also suggest the economics of a recovering city where immigrants and established locals alike set up shop and try to provide for themselves and their communities. For his Sign Language, Notes from the High Desert project, McGovern expanded his range to include the Antelope Valley, a place recovering from similar economic pressures as San Bernardino and other rural communities throughout the country.
With the Antelope Valley’s close proximity to Los Angeles and the proliferation of high definition billboards lining the ubiquitous eight-lane highways in our region, McGovern turned his lens toward the hand painted signs, murals and advertisements that punctuate our rural, two-lane highway landscape. McGovern provides a window into the minutia that is often taken for granted among the larger mass of “freeway culture” in the area. The photographs piece together fragments of the Antelope Valley’s vernacular style of architecture with the hand painted signs that are being replaced by homogenous strip malls and master planned communities. Many of the signs are deteriorating or were painted in a by-gone era, indicating how the valley is changing over time.
Thomas McGovern is Professor of Art at California State University San Bernardino. He exhibits widely in California, New York and Germany and is represented in distinguished collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Brooklyn Museum of Art; Baltimore Museum of Art; Library of Congress; Museum Fur Photographie; Museum of the City of New York and The New Museum, New York among others.
Danial Nord: Youtopia
Danial Nord is an interdisciplinary artist who reinterprets the familiar language and trappings of mass communication. Nord’s installations draw from his accomplishments as an award winning designer-animator in the entertainment industry, as an internationally-based fashion designer, and as a scenic and prop artist for film, television and theater.
Nord’s humorous new digital video Youtopia pokes fun at electronic communication and how automated search engines control the information we obtain. The video is based on an email he received with a link to a New York Times article titled: Guggenheim and YouTube Seek Budding Video Artists. Nord created virtual assistants to investigate the article. As the automated inquiries progress over time, they are eventually skewed by database hierarchies and software glitches, which produce amusing, convoluted associations and misguided conclusions. Youtopia underscores the current state of affairs in our quick-to-click culture.
Nord earned his BFA from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia and Rome, Italy. He continued with postgraduate studies in communication technologies and media at the School of Visual Arts and the NYU Center for Digital Multimedia in New York. Nord has exhibited his work in the US and abroad at World Expo 2010, Shanghai, China, Stadsmuseum Ghent, Belgium, and in New York at Freight + Volume and ISE Cultural Foundation. Nord lives, works and exhibits widely in Los Angeles including at California Museum of Photography, Fringe Exhibitions, HAUS, Pacific Design Center, and the City of L.A. Municipal Art Gallery. His work has been covered by the LA Times, LA Weekly, Artweek, Afterimage, and NPR.