Monday, December 19, 2011


Will Tucker and Jacob Isenhour's onesheeter for "Buy an Hour."

The post below this one is my personal, kooky, and freewheeling take on an art exhibit at a little local art gallery here in town called Museum Gallery Gallery Museum.  The exhibit is titled "Buy an Hour," and it features art by two gentlemen with BFAs and MFAs, Will Tucker and Jacob Isenhour.  Upon seeing the show on its opening night I was truly inspired.  It seemed to me to be about a mystical yet landlocked convergence of working-class angst, visual mischief, and poetic ambitiousness, a dreamy vignette in which William Carlos Williams and Marcel Duchamp have started running a meth lab together.

Here's the artist Will Tucker's response to what I wrote:  "Although I appreciate the complimentary tone of this review such cannot justify the kind of hijacking it attempts. This review reproduces that Dickean trope that buttresses a modernist teleology against a pre-modern Appalachian/rural other. Such fascination with the grotesque is an expression of the uncanny shock where modernity experiences its land base."

I wrote a smart-alecky response back to him, which you are welcome to read in the comments section below the original post.  But I got to thinking Sunday as I was watching football all day about Will Tucker's weird, over-the-top, and somehow anxious reply to my reaction to his show, and I remembered the onesheeter that had accompanied "Buy an Hour."  (I scanned it in; see above.) 

A brief little comment on the show's intention and the artists' relationships and credentials, the onesheeter states, "With a common concern for how labor conditions and production time dominate environment and energy relations, these artists look for ideas and potentials that outfall property lines."  At the time of seeing the show I remembered reading this sentence and that is kind of what made me go with what I wrote.  I thought embedded in that rhetoric was a desire for transgression somehow.  "Potentials outfalling property lines," etc.  The show itself transgresses playfully, mixing "nature" and "man-made" in little sick ways that reminded me of my white-trash childhood.  I remembered the boredom and fear of being left alone when I was little and my mom and dad had to go to work, and all the trash and objects in and around our rundown house turning magically into objects that could "mean" something beyond just being there.  This transformation occurred because the circumstances of being left by myself dislocated my perception of the natural world, spun me out of the norm and into the universe left to me when I was all alone and afraid no one was coming back.  The art in "Buy an Hour" allowed me re-entrance into that world.  It allowed me to rehash my "fascination with the grotesque."  And by "grotesque," I'm referencing Bahktin's version, the one in Rabelais and His World, the grotesque trope used as a comic figure of profound ambivalence, displacement and transference.  The kind of literary and philosophical grotesquery that allows you the pleasure of reversing your idea of good and evil, beautiful and ugly.  (By the way, I could be identified as possibly the penultimate "Appalachian/rural other."  I'm from Johnson City, Tennessee, working-class, raised Fundamentalist Baptist, and yup:  gay.  You name it.  In other words, I wasn't being "teleological."  I was being "ontological.") 

However, Will Tucker seems to want to block that entrance in his response to my post.  He seems to have found meaning in his work prior to it being seen, and that meaning, he seems to feel, needs to be protected with a fence made out of $100 words.

I wonder if Will Tucker was not credentialed and not making art in that sense of what "meaning" means he might allow for meanings beyond philosophy and post-structuralism. 

Which brings me around to the topic I beat like a dead horse:  outsider art.  "Outsider artists" simply by BEING "outsider artists" are posited as not "owning" the meanings of their works; they make art reclusively, so the story goes, without regard for the art-world or its meanings and meaning-makers. 

BFA- and MFA-less, Antonio Adams is an artist we champion at Thunder-Sky, Inc., the art gallery I oversee along with a few other folks.  Often working under the title "outsider artist," Antonio does his artistic "research" when not being a busboy at Frisch's.  Antonio creates buckets and buckets of meaning, but he doesn't claim that meaning as his sole property I don't think.  I really don't think he cares too much about what people think, other than folks showing up and possibly buying some of it.  Or cute girls telling him how great he is.  However, the universe he is creating, the identity he is trying to fashion (as an artist outside of dichotomies, institutions and academies), is quite precious to him.  And to me and several others who know his work.

Take a look:

Antonio Adams' new painting
In many of his paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures, Antonio is positioning himself as a maestro of an ongoing orchestra.  This new painting has the absolute clarity of a WPA mural mingling with the bright lights of Broadway and the chaos and absurdity of your favorite guilty-pleasure reality show.  "Meaning" in Antonio's aesthetic is (another Bahktin term) "heteroglossic," a matrix of conflicts, comedy and just plain moxy.  In fact, Antonio references every form of culture (both high and low) in his oeurvre.  In other words, the "meaning" in Antonio's work comes through a little clearer than in Will Tuckers' because of the confidence of not wanting to control outcomes, not caring who sees it or how it buttresses a reputation.  As the saying goes:  show, don't tell.  I think the same thing could be said of Will Tucker and Jacob Isenhour's "Buy an Hour."  No hijacking was intended at all, but what I assumed was that their art was up for interpretation and celebration in terms beyond "deterministic time systems."  I guess I just wanted the gloriously evokative simplicity of their art to be what I wrote about, sans the self-made complexity of what they think it should mean.