A Place Without A Place Engages with the concept of Utopias, in particular Foucault's notion of heterotopias and the multiple ways in which the landscape becomes layered with meanings.
The main thrust of the exhibition is the massive ship that faces you as you enter the gallery. Entitled "Before the Wind" it evokes the ideas of hope, freedom, discovery, the voyage of the pilgrims, the quest for the new, and yet speaks to the means of colonialism, a slave galley ship, and the hegemonies of consumer culture that were born of trade and exploration. There are layers of references to "master paintings" of ships on the high seas that were taken up later, serialized and commercialized by the 1950’s Paint by Numbers phenomena. The technology of this piece is made from poured, cut and sculpted paint; it is then layered and pinned on the wall with various lengths of Stainless steel rod.
The galley ship is contrasted with a cast-bronze 1977 Sharp TV case. Entitled, "Allegory of the Cave” the work presents the viewer with a hollowed out, empty frame for the massive quantities of consumer ideas and cultural imprinting that are digested by millions each day. A means of communication defunct and derelict, it references the creation of perception and the ideologies projected by one of America's more enduring legacies.
Placed to the right of the TV case is a stainless steel tree made of used welded forks, predominantly fabricated in Asia, - Japan, Korea, Philippines, China - "Second Nature" speaks to contemporary attitudes of outsourcing, industry and commerce...as well as post-world war two production and economic regeneration. Further the tree is a metaphor for the cultural projections of the West upon the East, non-fork users fabricate to our specifications these tools and eventually adopt the "civilized" practice of their use.
Directly Opposite the ship, A 13 x 16 ft. charcoal wall drawing of the New York City skyline is made of reclaimed fire debris. The production of "NYC O1/10" is "outsourced" to another artist. In its Sol Lewitt reference, the work investigates the displacement of authorship. This work was based on an actual paint by number presented on the front flap of a catalogue commemorating an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute. The date for the catalogue was 2001, just a few months prior to 911. The displacement of authorship, the commercialization and mechanization of art in the form of popular paint by numbers and the packaging of a cultural ideal are several of the ideas intended for this work.
Finally, "Heterotopia" is a single channel video projection of oilrigs in Ventura County, a local and personal reference for the artist and a larger statement about consumption. The imagery evokes the tumultuous seascapes of Turner, the tiny ships lost in an enormous sky here rendered as oilrigs in the night. The 10 minute and 1 second video records the setting sun, the emerging night lights and evocative flaming smoke stacks recording the production of oil, our greatest evil, the poison of our age.... just another "topia."
Gianna M. Carotenuto, Ph.D.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History
Department of Art, California State University, Long Beach