(Untitled) The Masquers by Craig Drennen | Curated by Erin Dziedzic
mr. & mrs. amani olu (formerly amani olu projects), in conjunction with P•P•O•W
511 West 25th Street, Room 301 | July 22 - Aug. 20, 2010 | Reception: July 22, 6-8 p.m.
The Masquers, Craig Drennen’s most recent visualized characters within the Timon of Athens (c. 1605–1608) series recontextualizes David Robbins’ 18 photographic images of major art figures of the 1980s titled Talent (1986). The Masquers (2010) or ladies dressed as Amazons, as indicted in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, reveal a paradox between the notion of “success” and “failure” in the art world deduced by the history of each individual artist represented since the images’ inception and asks us to imagine a world beyond postmodernism. The skepticism toward Jean-François Lyotard’s questioning of the truth advised through metanarratives, Frederic Jameson’s Neo-Marxist reading of postmodernism as the “dominant cultural logic of late capitalism,” and Jean Baudrillard’s suggested shift of identity to mediations and simulations, do not have the high stakes grandeur in expressing the impotence of modernism they had in the early 1980s. However, the current generations tendency to passively default to these theoretical systems has prompted a lull in reexamining critical theory. Are we riding the wave of the “success” of postmodernism and therefore hesitant to further query on the instances of its “failures?” Just as Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Claes Oldenburg, and Jim Dine had reacted to the dominant gestural mark of abstract expressionism by expanding upon it through the recontextualizing of objects to forge Pop art in the late 1950s, contemporary postmodern practices of intertextuality, pastiche, and mediated detachment have become the impetus for a new hybrid art practice.
Furthermore, the title of the exhibition, Young Curators, New Ideas III asks us to peruse the so-called successes and failures in contemporary art but also those whose ideas and visual vocabulary vibrate in between this dichotomy and address a concept of redirection in the current moment.
Drennen’s continued series’ proceed through the entire dramatis personae of the Shakespearean play Timon of Athens, which was never performed during Shakespeare’s life and is often considered a “failed” work. Drennen situates himself within our existing cultural structure and visually explores an unoccupied bandwidth within which a “failed” project resides. The low influx of activity surrounding a “failed” project allows Drennen to insert his own contemporary intertextual modifications driven by intuitive exploration, coupled with the inclusion of a post YouTube mash-up of modern and postmodern ideologies. For The Masquers characters Drennen scanned and enlarged photographic reproductions of each of Robbins’ black and white studio shot portraits from Talent (1986) onto canvas. The glamorized photographic images establish an appropriated identity for viewers, into which Drennen then pulls into the language of painting. He does so by applying a layer of spontaneous drips that call to mind the purification of form and then builds upon them intentionally by adding thick, candy-like masses of oil paint that can be read as embellishment or defacing of the portrait. Small balls of aluminum foil are set into the piles of paint to suggest a beautification of the image, while cigarettes extinguished into the shimmering globs of paint reference both the taboo pleasure of the act of smoking and of putting the lit cigarettes out into a wet painting. This presents an implied abject quality to the portraits and in “defacing” them reemphasizes the notion of a “failed” entity.
Drennen’s works bring to light the possibility of postmodernisms tenure losing ground to a new hybrid practice that assimilates traits from modernism and postmodernism, and in the process intensifies the desire for a new perspective beyond the available vocabulary.
Special thank you to the following: Craig Drennen, Camilo Alvarez, Amani Olu, Brian Newell, Katie Walker, Stephanie Greene, Hugo Aguilera, Christopher Bumgarner (Precision Plastics, Inc.)