the new weird america
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DESCRIPTIONExhibition catalogue for "The New, Weird America" recent show at the Dana Art Gallery in Wellesley, MA, featuring work by Neil Bender, Brent Fogt, Matt Krawcheck and Sean McCarthy, curated by Michael Frassinelli, with an essay by Erica Plouffe Lazure, poems by Alexandra Mattraw, and photography by Pat Cassidy Mollach
Dana Art Gallery Wellesley, MA
Weirdt h e
The New, Weird AmericaExhibition Catalogue
Copyright 2010 The Dana Art Gallery
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be used without written permission of the publisher.
All artwork the artists. Unless otherwise noted, all reproductions courtesy the artists, their galleries, or their collectors. Poems Alexandra Mattraw. Introductory essay Erica Plouffe Lazure.
t h e
painting drawing collage new media machines
the dana art gallery, wellesley, ma
february 8 - march 12, 2010
Featuring work by:
Curated by Michael Frassinelli
Essay by Erica Plouffe Lazurewith poetry by Alexandra Mattraw
and Photographs by Pat Cassidy Mollach
Construction diagram for Single Reel Pixadigigiga-mitigator
Ink on paper (drawing folds up into a pamplet)
New. Weird. America. Depending on whom you talk to, these words dont have as much meaning as they used to. In this Digital Age, something thought of as
new holds that title for a few weeks at best, until, with lightning speed, the new, new
overtakes it. With virtually every bizarre image available on the internet, the concept of
weird has also gone through a bit of a change. What was once thought of as outlandish/
radical/outrageous/offensive, whether it be in art, fashion or music (or politics, for that
matter), can, in a matter of years or even months, become acceptable, fashionable, and
eventually pass. With a changing demographic, fluctuating values, behavior-altering
technology and a steadily mutating popular culture, America in 2010 is certainly not the
place mom and dad remember as kids. Often it appears to be less like a melting pot and
more like some kind of hybrid pressure-cooker/atom-smasher that is in the middle of
creating a new form of matter/country/experience entirely.
The inspiration for this exhibit came about from this idea of suddenly waking
up, looking around at the changing cultural landscape and saying, You know what? I
think we are living in some strange future. It was put together as homage to/rip off
of the wonderful touring art exhibit entitled The Old, Weird America, recently held
at the DeCordova Museum.1 While the artists in that exhibit found common themes
looking back at the peculiar American past, the artists in The New, Weird America find
1. The title was taken from the title of Greil Marcus book about Bob Dylan and the various inspirations and
parallels to American history and culture found in the Basement Tape recordings of 1967.
themselves looking ahead, looking behind, and looking around at this brave new world we suddenly live in.
Their inspirations are varied, their approaches to art-making different. The things they share are some serious
surrealist tendencies, a dash of obsessive-compulsive work methods and a unique vision that allows them to
create engaging work in a highly personal style. And, for the most part, the average person (Jane Q. Public,
your uncle, Joe the Plumber, take your pick) would probably look at their work and say, Thats interesting ... but
a little weird.
(As it happens, after I chose the title The New, Weird America, I soon found out that the phrase had
already been coined years earlier--specifically by David Keenan in the August 2003 issue of the British avant
guard music magazine The Wire. The article was about the Brattleboro Free Folk Music Festival in Brattleboro,
Vermont, where a new psychedelic folk (or freak folk) movement was bubbling up.2 Coincidentally, I was
introduced to the artists in this exhibit--Neil Bender, Brent Fogt, Sean McCarthy and Matt Krawcheck--when
we all met just up the road from Brattleboro in Johnson, Vermont, as artists-in-residence at the Vermont Studio
Center, in the summer of 2009. Isnt that weird?)
Id like to thank the artists for their help in creating this exhibit and also fellow VSC writers/artists-in-
residence for their contributions: Erica Plouffe Lazure (for her thoughtful essay), Alexandra Mattraw (for her
wonderful poems, which are interspersed among these catalogue pages), and Pat Cassidy Mollach (for allowing
us to include her portraits of the artists and several other photographs). Id also like to thank the Vermont
Studio Center, the Dana Hall School for continuing to support the gallery program, and finally to Mr. Al Gore
for inventing the internet. Without e-mail, web searches, on-line servers and Facebook communications this
exhibit and catalog--and the world as we know it--would not exist.
--Michael Frassinelli Curator
2. New Weird America. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Weird_America
Collage in the New, Weird America and the (un)Making of a Mallard
By Erica Plouffe Lazure
Im thinking of a mallard.
The writer Donald Barthelme once wrote that collage is the central
principle of all art in the twentieth century. If Barthelme were alive today, hed no
doubt be surprised that his collage theory has spanned well beyond the creative
arts, as well as the twentieth century. For in these times, our lives play out in a sort
of collage. Daily we deal with paradox and juxtaposition, placing in contextin
collage, if you willthe oftentimes disparate and bizarre elements of our lives.
Im thinking of a mallard in Vermont whose wings have been clipped.
Now more than everbetween musical mash-ups and auto-tune web
videos that meld techno beats and newsreels with spoofed, digitized versions of
a politicians catch phrasecollage as an experience of life is in full-force, moving
far past the possibilities afforded by grade-school scissors, oak tag, and a few
old magazines. How else could a McDonalds hamburger franchise thrive in cow-
loving India? How else can we account for the flourishing success of reality TV
Detail of scroll
Mixed-media on paper
shows and self-outing online social networks in a culture obsessed with
privacy? And how is it, with our nation at war, that the President of the
United States can receive the Nobel Peace Prize? Perhaps its fitting that he
did: each of us knows the difficulty of diffusing hostile situations with the
people in our lives. Setting the tone for peace may be just what we need.
The lone mallard quacks. He swims in a river swollen from two days of rain. He quacks to no one.
It makes sense, then, that collageas an art form, as a narrative
strategy, as an experience of life in this particular moment in timeholds
relevance. We live and work in the cut-and-paste. We take fragments
of ideas, fragments of sentences, and synthesize them into a seemingly
coherent whole. Collagetaken from the French word for glue
celebrates appropriation. It takes an existing idea or object and mixes it
with imagination. It reinvents what is into what might be. Borne of this
energy, collage yields something new, something never before considered or
Crossing the bridge above the swollen river is a woman on her way to lunch. She stops to watch the mallard. She notices a note of panic in his quack. He wont stop quacking. She sometimes sees a flock of mallards on the river, but not today. She looks upstream, then downstream. Where, she wonders, is his family?
The work in the New, Weird America exhibit offers an experience
of this kind of collage: an amalgam of invention, appropriation, playfulness,
and spontaneity. For Sean McCarthy, it emerges in the pen-and-ink birth of
creatures never before imaginedpart spooky, knowing camel, part sweet
demon, part winged fish. For Brent Fogt, it surfaces in patient, topographical
Sean McCarthyUvallInk and graphite on paper: 9 x 8 inches.2007.
undertakings composed of a hundred thousand meticulously drawn
circles. For Matt Krawchek, it is a mission to paint an epic personal
narrative that ricochets from Big Bird to the boom box, from Mini Me
to a new take on PowerPoint. For Neil Bender, it is a sexploration of
eros in hot gummy pink flashes through the lens of pop culture and
cutouts of wandering pheromones.
The mallards smooth green head moves left, then right, as though it is searching for something along the shore. The woman holds an umbrella in the crook of her arm, convinced the rain will return. She also is convinced that the swollen river has swept away the other mallards and he alone is the sole survivor, now looking in vain for his loved ones.
As creators, we must experience juxtaposition in order for a
connection to be made. For within these seeming bifurcated spaces
lies the gift of connectivity. In recognizing that the links between
objects and ideas can be as important as the objects and ideas
themselves, we are able to experience the nature of relationships. We
are able to see within ourselves how juxtaposition can reside, how
that which we view as other, as not me, can become me with a
little thought and compassion. It is in the recognition of the energetic
interface of two seemingly separate entities that