Personalizing the Political at The Loft at Liz’s: GUNS
Written by Genie Davis
The Loft at Liz’s is offering an inclusive, layered show in GUNS, a group exhibition featuring 23 artists and their intensely personal, and subjectively political take on the eponymous weapons. Curated jointly by Betty Ann Brown, gallery-owner Liz Gordon, and Dr. Anita Storm, this is a rich tapestry that explores America’s love/hate relationship with guns, our often violence-streaked culture, and the passionate debate for gun control.
The exhibition includes neon sculpture and fine art photography, paintings and multi-media works from artists John Baldessari, Jodi Bonassi, David Buckingham, Helen Chung, Joyce Dallal, Cheryl Dullabaun, Shepard Fairey, Michael Flechtner, Jane Goren, Mark Steven Greenfield, Alex Kritselis, Meg Madison, Ted Meyer, Sabine Pearlman, Osceola Refetoff, Miles Regis, Milo Reice, Ed Ruscha, Kathy Shorr, Anna Stump, Senon Williams and Kerri Sabine-Wolf.
The high energy gallery show has been accompanied by a panel from Women Against Gun Violence, a riveting artist’s talk, and upcoming this Friday, Gunworlds, a performance art piece created by Maya Gurantz and Elizabeth Goodman. While the art itself speaks a thousand words on American life, violence, the safety of our children, and the mythology of gun ownership, the talks and performance seek to augment the works themselves, adding yet another layer of dimension to an already dimension-rich exhibition.
The curators invited artists with a wide range of views on guns, their social context, the NRA, and more to participate in the show.
Is the second amendment worth preserving? Gone are the days of muskets and militia, today we deal in cyber warfare and chemical weapons. Yet guns as tools to achieve power, to wield authority, to support our American belief – a belief perhaps more than a reality – in equality, self-protection, even the Wild West – persist with a potency and divisiveness few other elements of our political lives consistently convey.
To the art.
Osceola Refetoff’s “Man with Upset Chair,” photographed in Lone Pine, Calif., is one of two pieces the artist has in the show. He notes “This image addresses the problematic mythology of the heroic American West – a world of pioneers, cowboys, and hyperbolic dreams of lawless individual ‘freedom’ stoked by the history of cinema and revered as part of our nation’s cultural identity…this image is both an homage and a challenge to the nostalgic romanticism of these majestic lands, which are in reality increasingly compromised, degraded, and contested.” His second image is “Bruce & Elsie,” photographed in Independence, Calif., an image of a loving couple, married 62 years and carrying hunting rifles. “This image addresses the assumptions behind the one-dimensional caricature of the American ‘gun nut’ which can generate an unhelpful sense of otherness and suspicion. Finding solutions to gun violence in America will require dialog between persons with opposing viewpoints, and for this, parties will need to recognize each other as individuals and not simply yell at one another from across the ideological divide,” Refetoff says.
Joyce Dalla’s “Fun Gun Collection – 2015-16″ is a mosaic of small paintings depicting children’s toy guns. The pastel coloration and the small scale of each piece creates a benign sense of play. And yet we know, don’t we, that too often children’s toys can be mistaken for the real thing and tragedies result. The candy colors here are as appealing as they are ironic.
Alexander Kritselis “Sirhan Sirhan” joins two images of the same weapon in an arc, with both panels awash in blood. Both devastating and architecturally beautiful, viewers stop, take it in, and wonder – the images create a kind of portal – where does it lead?
Michael Flechtner “Shotgun Shack (Living the American Dream)” and “Elephant Gun (For Those Who are About to Murder!)” are both beautiful neon works that pop out and compel long looks. “Shotgun” is a red, white, and blue neon tunnel housing the titular weapon; three dimensional and shocking in the way in which it appeals to the eye and repels at the same time. “Elephant Gun” is a burnt orange wall piece that shows the gun bent in a trunk-like shape, rendering it inoperative. I love neon, and these pieces do all that neon should, burning the provocative images into viewers’ retinas.
Miles Regis: “Don’t Treat Me Any Different” and “It Never Ends This Pretty” are equally startling. The Trinidadian multimedia artist serves up heartfelt, emotional works here. “It Never Ends This Pretty” is a handgun covered with patches of vibrant color, scaled and skin-like, with two eyes unblinkingly watching the conflagration this weapon has undoubtedly let loose. “Don’t Treat Me Any Different” is a stark figure of a man, hands raised (hands up/don’t shoot evoked) with red, white, and blue shading. A beautiful figure, just as any man can be beautiful, and worth saving not destroying.
Jodi Bonassi, whose beautiful figurative work retains a dream-like quality, describes her work as that of an “outside artist… My work has been seen as expressionism, a more sophisticated form of street art, social realism and figurative. The backgrounds are often floaty and expressive especially my drawings.” Her “Gun Children Series” are nothing short of spectacular, vividly evoking both innocence – the innocence of the child, and the anger the artist aches with that children are in danger because of our obsession with guns. She calls her work “A statement about children in an uncertain world.”
Just a sampling of the powerful works in a powerful show. Take aim for this one, it’s a sure shot of literally and figuratively important art.