A Matter of Public Record at Durden and Ray
through September 29th
By Patrick Quinn
Our current presidential administration has managed to do something that hasn’t happened in decades; make political art more than just relevant – now it’s hip and trendy as well. We are a country divided not only by policy, but by a single personality. Walls are being built, literally and spiritually, perpetuating a sense of mistrust. Artists may not be able to change that sense, but they can certainly call it to task. The subtitle for this timely group show is “Art in the Age of Mass Surveillance,” a phrase that aptly describes the work that co-curators Brian Thomas Jones and Grant Vetter have assembled.
The press release describes the show as, “…an exhibition that examines the many ways that we are watched, surveilled, datamined, and placed within an overdetermined system of social control that relies on the multiplication of mechanisms of “capture”. Whether we are capturing ourselves in selfies, tagging our locations, using GPS supported apps for directions, or just passing through the expanded techniques associated with “societies of surveillance”, we must admit that we have entered a new age.”
The show is a mixture of painting, drawing, sculpture, and video. Some of the work is decidedly to the point, such as Brian Thomas Jones mixed-media piece Camdalier or Rembrandt Quiballo’s video collage You See Davis. Steve Hampton’s painting of Vladimir Putin The Fisherman captures the surreal aspect of a world leader who likes to pose shirtless for his own souvenir calendar. Chris Vena’s simple but powerful Cloud sits almost alone on a wall by itself. Both Denis Gillingwater’s black and white video images and Sean Noyce’s interactive pixilated installation Redaction make darkly humorous observations on the notion of surveillance.
The centerpiece of the show is Playland Security by multi-media artist Nathaniel Lewis. The always humbling and unpleasant experience of being searched by Homeland Security is recast as a bright and colorful children’s playground experience. As a girl is body-scanned, a young boy playing the role of terrorist sends his weapons through the scanner. The hard irony is that it’s not difficult to imagine children play-acting these roles as easily as they might play Doctor or Fireman.
The press release features a quote from Benjamin Franklin, a man who most likely would have a few things to say about our nation’s current circumstances: “Any society that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”
A Matter of Public Record takes that statement and runs with it. At the event’s opening, co-curator Brian Thomas Jones dressed as a security guard and harassed suspicious-looking patrons, which seemed to include everyone in attendance. He carried a clipboard with sheets of official-looking papers. On closer inspection, these pages were a paranoid’s manifesto. An endless repeat of the same phrases in a loop:
They are watching you.
We are watching you.
You are being watched.
You are on a list.
The show runs through September 29th, 2018
Hours: Saturday and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m. and by appointment
Durden & Ray Gallery is located at 1206 Maple Ave. #832, Los Angeles, CA 90015
For further information; DandRart@gmail.com