the new weird america

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Exhibition 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

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  • Dana Art Gallery Wellesley, MA

    Weirdt h e

    Ame icaR

  • the

    new

    weirdamerica

  • 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

    WeirdAme icaR

    painting drawing collage new media machines

    the dana art gallery, wellesley, ma

    february 8 - march 12, 2010

    Neil

    SeanMattBrent

    BENDERFOGTKRAWCHECKMcCARTHY

    Featuring work by:

    Curated by Michael Frassinelli

    Essay by Erica Plouffe Lazurewith poetry by Alexandra Mattraw

    and Photographs by Pat Cassidy Mollach

  • Essays

    Matt Krawcheck

    Construction diagram for Single Reel Pixadigigiga-mitigator

    Ink on paper (drawing folds up into a pamplet)

    2009

  • Foreward

    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

    Matt Krawcheck

    Detail of scroll

    Mixed-media on paper

    2009

    Boston-based

    mash-up singer

    Katie Enlow

  • 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

    seen.

    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