Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Traditions and Technologies

Jeff Myers, Out to Paster/The Family Farm,
oil on canvas, 2011
Painterly Traditions

Sacramento holds a strong tradition of painting linked to many esteemed local artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Gregory Kondos, and, their younger, Fred Dalkey. The vast California landscape has been and continues to be a spring of inspiration for many of these artistic figures. The art of Jeff Myers follows along these traditions of heightened color to render the paysage however he disrupts the playful plasticity with grim undertones.

Jeff Myers, Field Boss, oil on canvas, 2011
A recent series of paintings from 2011 by Jeff Myers is currently on view at the new and spacious Alex Bult Gallery. Myers does not address social tensions through humor as many Funk artists did, instead he alludes to social issues through a strategy to captivate with color in order to tell the real story. Out to Pasture/The Family Farm is a large canvas of two mechanical harvesters propped up against a flat, white toned background. The machines’ shadows and low landscape serve as a division within the composition to reveal a staggering city as the undercurrent of industrial agriculture. One of these harvesters is featured in Field Boss as the imposing structure that looms and overshadows field workers below. Myers rendered the harvester with a bright palette, centrally placed on the canvas, modeling the formidable giant with intense greens and blues. The machine is celebrated in this composition, highlighting technology and the belief that modern advancements were to liberate humanity from laborious hardships. Yet Myers notes the failure of the utopian ideal, as the ghostly images of anonymous figures laboring below are further enslaved into the repetitiveness of our mechanized world.

The painting tradition proves to be an effective format for continual conversation within our contemporary times, a medium that satisfies our interest in color, the technique of facture and form, and our insatiable appetite to dialogue on canvas.

Christopher Taggart, Pigberry (for Sizemore), archival
inkject on polyester, various mechanical parts, motor,
water,  sports ball, ink, 2011
Hybrid Art

Some inquiring minds outside the art field occasionally ask how contemporary art is representative of our moment, which is characterized by technology. The truth of the matter is that artists working with a variety of technological media are too often over-looked by the average individual that has not had a thorough introduction in art appreciation. In other words, technological art is not immediately accessible (conceptually) to the average viewer, particularly in places like Sacramento where the traditions of painting and sculpture continue as the dominant art forms. The Center for Contemporary Arts offers a refreshing alternative with the exhibition Time Fugitives featuring the work of Christopher Taggart.

Pigberry (for Sizemore), detail
The exhibition displays an array of media employed by the artist from video, photos, motors, drawing, mirrors, even water. The most striking two-dimensional objects are the photo collages. Taggart meticulously cuts a series of photographs and pieces them together. The fragmented photos appear as a woven mosaic of the subject, creating a pixalized image that distorts and renders unexpected patterns. One of the most challenging pieces that can be appreciated is Pigberry, an inflatable football (or object inspired by a football) that demonstrates the artist’s background in physics. Taggart carefully plotted focal points upon the football model. He photographed these sections, printed the images on polyester, cut triangles along the plotted points and sewed them together. He created a water pump to inflate his reconstituted football, creating a final object that morphed into a distinct form of its own.

Taggart's painstaking processes may come across as over-the-top however his art satisfies the curiosity of reconstructing our world, researching and creating new ways to interpret our environment. He applies rigorous systems that allow for a surprise effect, that even the artist does not foresee the end result.