Curated by Christina Vassallo
February 22 - March 25, 2011
Seton Gallery, University of New Haven
The exhibition title Loss Generation is a play on the technical phrase, “generation loss,” and the historical term, “Lost Generation.” The artworks in this group show explore the motivations behind reproducing an experience, phenomenon, or cultural by-product. Adherence to the original subject matter is often compromised by the faulty and subjective act of remembering, similar to the generation loss that accumulates between copies of data like mixtapes or resized digital images. The participating artists capitalize on this unfaithful process by focusing on the inflated cultural, economic, or personal values that surround the true content of the initial experience.
The artworks included in Loss Generation illustrate a yearning for the materialization of Platonic ideals, while at the same time reveal a fascination with inauthenticity. Viewed through the lens of nostalgia, personal narratives are mythologized and re-creating them for the viewer requires the distortion of fact. Transformation, and possibly degradation, occurs through the production of something new from something familiar, resulting in a feeling of disillusionment that ties the works in this exhibition to the various generations that have been described as “lost” since WWI.
DANIEL BEJAR is not a musician but he started to receive emails from fans referencing his work with Canadian indie rock band, Destroyer. An Internet search revealed that there is, indeed, a Destroyer front man who shares a name as well as an uncanny physical resemblance with the artist. In response to this coincidence, Daniel Bejar/Destroyer (The Googlegänger) is a web-based search engine intervention in which the visual artist re-staged images of his musical double that were collected from Google’s image search engine. The artist has uploaded his images to the Internet andcreated a blog to manipulate their page rank, so that they will appear alongside the original photographs of the musician online. The presentation of this intervention at Seton Gallery includes printed emails from a Destroyer fan that inspired the project, side-by-side comparisons of the original and re-staged photographs, and visual documentation of the Google image results. Also on display isThe Visual Topography of a Generation Gap, in which Bejar creates an elegant representation of inexactness by manipulating a flaw in a series of key copies.
When JONATHAN BRAND recently discovered that his childhood bike was an unauthorized copy of the first freestyle bmx bike ever made, he decided to purchase the original on Ebay. In a nostalgic effort to truly replicate his first bike, he altered the new bike to look like the one he remembered as a boy. Taking the process one step further, Brand constructed a homemade router that he used only once to create a 1:1 MDF version of his modified bike. The router, Battle Axe, is literally a memory re-creator and a sculptural object in its own right. Following his obsession still, Brand made several silverpoint drawings of himself trying to learn tricks on his new bike. Exhibiting the drawings of his failed attempts next to the cumbersome single-use utilitarian sculpture Battle Axe illustrates the measures that Brand took to manifest his fond memories.
As the viewer passes through different zones to enter the exhibition space, DEBBIE HESSE'S site-specific installation Ingress extends the transition from outside to inside by incorporating organic and architectural elements from the surrounding area. Hesse redefines the entryway by narrowing the gallery foyer (itself, a space of transition) with a border garden. Constructed of grids of grass, the carefully planned arrangement references both the rolling hills of the natural Connecticut landscape and the rows of sown industrial crops—both of which dot the landscape along the local I-95 highway. Once inside the gallery, the viewer is confronted by a series of visual contradictions: organic and plastic forms, painted and cast shadows, real and fake representations of nature. This layered scene explores the erosion of nature’s authenticity through human intervention.
HIROSHI KUMAGAI makes hand-cut vinyl collages of people engaging with each other through means of digital communication. Kumagai intentionally “pixelates” his collages by using large and poorly defined fields of supersaturated color to mimic the look of cheap webcam equipment. Screenshots of conversations that are posted online by the participants or in which Kumagai participates, capture the blunting of emotional nuance that occurs through Skype, video chat, and instant messaging. They also reveal the online alter-egos of everyday people who are simply trying to communicate something that the outside viewer may be unable to decipher or may take out of context due to lack of information, as in Lonely Bear71 and Two Grandmas.
In his Units series, GRAHAM MCNAMARA dissects classical paintings to their most elemental parts by reducing their palettes to shades of one color, focusing on single aspects of the subject matter, and altering the picture plane until the original image is barely recognizable. His deliberately deconstructed allusions to historically relevant artworks are applied to sculptural supports that recall modernist tendencies. McNamara’s process further complicates these art historical citations as he summons the abstract expressionist movement through his use of solvent, which corrodes the surface with drips of thinned paint. Finally, he painstakingly paints the reproduction around these drips, which work to dissolve the romance and assigned historical relevance that imbue the reference material. Every stage of McNamara’s process begs the question: who or what is responsible for maintaining the canon of art?
AMY YOUNGS' work is concerned with the mediated experience of reality and being one step removed from nature by technological means. In her ongoing series Artifacts from the Screening of the World Youngs culls the Internet for live feeds of real places, focusing on the equipment’s imaging capabilities rather than the landscape it captures. She categorizes her collection of screenshots and prints them onto backlit film panels that are displayed as curtains. The panels in Loss Generation are comprised of 300 screenshots from various webcams that record a landscape through a window. Youngs has indexed them under the headings “glitch,” “internal reflections,” and “blur,” depending on how the image was affected. Electrical interference, reflections, motion, or even a spider web in front of the camera lens add mysterious formal characteristics to the transmitted data.
FRANK ZADLO mines the fertile territory of 70s and 80s films for his video work. In Supertitles, Zadlo altered the opening title sequence of the movie “Super Man” by removing the names and leaving only the blue light trails behind. Superman was the first movie to use digital effects in its opening credits, which was considered a groundbreaking cinematic achievement in 1978. Over thirty years later, and without its communicative essence, the digital effect seems hokey and ineffectual. Zadlo also explores the concept of mitigated impact in his two other films on display. In A Raider’s Barge Song he looped the scene of Gestapo agent Arnold Toht’s face burning at the end of “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and placed it on top of a degraded rendering of itself. InThrough the Eyes of a Predator he appropriated point-of-view scenes of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character from the 1987 movie. The impact of the material’s original horror-filled intentions are removed in both video works by Zadlo’s singular focus on the technology used in creating the artifice of movie horror.