“Fabric of a Nation”. This piece will be included in “Local Legends” at @mirusgallery opening Friday March 4th.
So, we often use this metaphor “fabric of a nation” to describe an underlying social order in a given place. In this country, the United States, we have spent the past few decades in a perpetual state of unraveling, reconfiguring and wearing some swatches of that fabric threadbare. This fabric is the battlefield. A war between fundamentalists and progressives or more concisely between: what was, and what will be. More recently it’s become a battle between democracy and some quasi autocratic fist-pumping pro-freedom (for some) disinformation campaign. So we tear, mend and re-orientate the scraps of the fabric, in an effort to make that fabric either more inclusive and fair or more exclusive and entitled depending or your position in the political spectrum. There are some, somewhere in the middle still sipping lemonade on a long summer’s afternoon waxing sentimental for the old 13 horizontal stripes and 50 white stars and a return to a simpler time. As if they are waiting for a storm to pass, waiting for the climate to cool and waiting for some strange antiquated white protestant leaning agenda to settle back into a lull of contentment. On the further ends of the spectrum are the fascists we fought to defeat 80 years ago and the progressives we in large part assassinated 60 years ago.
In the balance, the 3rd largest population and 4th largest land mass sit in front of phones tossing impotent insults, in a fog of disinformation, echo chambers and blaming. It’s a patchwork of failure and dysfunction. Eventually, that scale will tip. Either toward democracy, inclusiveness and grand aspirations or toward some romantic notion of a past that propped up “some” at the expense of many. Tattered as it may seem, understand that this fabric is still being woven.
So let’s go back about 2 years…. My studio mate Ken Harman of Spoke Art gets an unsolicited email from an oil painting factory in China. The email explains how the factory is excellent in making reproductions of great works of art as well as portraits, landscapes, nudes etc. All at very reasonable prices.
I thought “shit, that would be a great show”. The idea was to have inexpensive copies of emerging contemporary artists and display them side by side. It calls into question so many things about our culture of individuality, the art world, marketplace and value. We had to do it. But we never did, UNTIL NOW!!!!
Our preoccupation with originality is filled with nuances and paradox. We assign market value to original art pieces for their scarcity, driven by the singular vision of the artist, yet we readily consume designer knock-offs from stores like Forever 21 and H&M, which make their profits from directly imitating the runway collections of Marc Jacobs, Donatella Versace and Alexander Wang. Is fine art something that, too, can be imitated? The rising popularity of giclees, art toys and limited edition sculptures seems to say that the answer is yes for many consumers.
What place do imitations hold in the art market? How do we measure the value of creativity? Viewers are invited to ask themselves these questions when viewing the original works and their imitations in “Made in China.
Come see for yourself Nov. 8th 7-10 pm at Ian Ross Gallery 466 Brannan St. San Francisco, CA
A few months ago I was asked to do a mural for the film “Fruitvale Station” which is about the killing of Oscar Grant and was released this week.
I had done a few pieces regarding those events in the past which some of the people at Weinstein Co. had seen and liked.
I have some pretty strong feelings on this subject and it had a deep impact on the community I call home (East Oakland). I drafted several layouts of what I was going to do, all of which were very similar to the work the film makers had seen. We had a few debates about the appropriateness of merch (t-shirts, stickers etc.) and also hashtags being included in the mural. I also suggested that the mural be in Oakland and not San Francisco. I was told that they didn’t want to do it in Oakland because it may cause a situation and this was a very hot button issue in Oakland.
After a lot of back and forth, I received an email with a list of requirements that were apparently from the director Ryan Coogler and not from Weinstein Co.. Essentially, I was told that my image was too dark and negative and there was a concern about upsetting people, particularly in the bay area. In my opinion if you tell the story of an innocent, unarmed black man being shot in the back by a white police officer while restrained and people are not upset and outraged than you haven’t told the story correctly. People should be upset, very upset. There was also a list of “cannot’s”
– show pictures of anyone but oscar
– have a gun
– focus the issue on the trial or his murder
At this point the mural could not in any way make reference to Oscar Grant’s murder or the police. The film (which I have seen) is about Oscar Grant’s death. Had Oscar Grant not been murdered, Mr. Coogler would not have made this film. Had Oscar Grant been murdered by another young man, a civilian, this film would not have been made. To my mind to exclude the murder and the police from my image would be dodging what is at the core of this issue.
There was also a list of objectives that were just ridiculous. “ The piece should come from a place of love”, “The piece could see to connect us all, and show how we should all care about each other”
I’m not sure where I was suppose to find love in this story. I didn’t know Oscar Grant, so I certainly could not have loved him and for me to somehow feign an affection that didn’t exist seems ingenuine and disrespectful. I am also not sure how Oscar Grant should be used to make us all feel connected and care for one another. There are a lot of deep seated reason that people of color are predominantly the victims of police brutality. There are also a lot of reasons that justice is rarely served in these circumstances. I feel pretty confident that those reasons are not a simple lack of care for one another. There didn’t seem to be any interest in confronting the issues or affecting the audience (of the murals) and I had no interest in doing what was starting to feel like a big elaborate inaffectual movie poster.
Last month I did the artwork for the cover of this Month’s Sierra Magazine. This was really an ideal situation. It’s a rare opportunity to get to work with a group as important as the Sierra Club. I also had the freedom to simply take this project and do what I do. Really, it was an ideal working environment. It’s always satisfying to be able to do your art while contributing to something you truly support. Some of you from San Francisco’s art community may recognize the model I used for the cover.
D young V and I collaborated of this piece in November. The Original piece is a 16×20 foot mural that was created as a part of Oakland’s First Fridays gallery walk. The Mural was reproduce on a 1 inch to 1 foot scale as a 16×20 inch Giclee print on 300lb Itlaian made cold press watercolor paper. This VERY limited edition print is a run of 20 only. Each print is signed by both artists and numbered.
Our good friend Nite Owl got us involved with this project for Art Murmur Oakland. A 16×20 ft wall to do whatever the fuck we pleased with. D young V and I only had a couple of days to bang this out . I actually like short deadlines because it cuts through all the bullshit and indecision. You just get it done. Awesome group of artists too. Nite Owl, Filth and Grime, Aura, Roar, 7seas, croma, onedr, Lydia Emily etc….
It would seem that something is happening… Occupy Wall St is in it’s 3rd week and collectively occupations have been sprouting up across the country. It doesn’t seem as though any of this is slowing down. Despite an overly aggressive NYPD and an absentee media, this is growing. Should be and interesting week.