Well, position

Well, position

This is the first exhibition at Trestle of Artist-Run 2020, a year-long exploration of artist-run projects throughout the country, in collaboration with Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Perspective is informed by identity, and identity informs positionality. Claudia Valenti, Vivian Liddell, Craig Drennen, Brian Christopher Glaser, and Robin Mandel present works in well, position, that meditate on the relationship between positionality and identity. Each artist forefronts position in their work; they are reactive to implications of social experiences and the effect of both indirect and direct actions of another onto themselves.

Looming and brooding, Claudia Valenti’s paintings own an experiential sense of comfort that teeters on unnerving. An effect of an unwanted action, or inaction of another is both fleeting and everlasting - and she addresses in-the-moment coping mechanisms alongside long term psychological changes and developed as a reaction to such direct person-to-person impact. Her paintings have a youthful playfulness, employing a fragment of a stuffed animal but on a monumental scale that has the character come alive. There is an aura of domestic turmoil in the paint as the artist grapples with the intrinsic or the purposeful fuzziness of memory.

Nodding to a long history of the misogynistic gaze towards an anonymous female muse, and in particular to Willem de Kooning’s 1950’s series of Women, Vivian Liddells series "Men" flips the gender normality of this construct by poignantly depicting nude male figures (much like their counterparts) and are aesthetic deliberate in its expressive abstraction. The man-spreading figures are melting into a couch or in the back of a pickup truck with a beer in their hand, stylized, but true to life. Looking at the construct of masculinity in the American South, she recontextualizes these men in her life and blends canonically feminine attributes to the machismo and pomposity of the peripheral male.

Craig Drennen has organized his studio practice around Shakespeare's play Timon of Athens, a work that was heavily criticized and never performed during the author's life, a failure of the author’s in some eyes. Driven by the creative forces of another in this body of work, Drennan strives to make Timon of Athens his own and only his by launching an exhaustive series of work that examines each character in the story. A small part of his decade-long exercise to transform the play for himself, the work presented here is based on the character “Bandit”, who is known for thievery and taking. The artist explains: "Timon of Athens is a corrupted text of indeterminate history, questionable sources, and a dubious relationship to the respected canon. That is to say, it mirrors my own position in the art world perfectly."

In his work, Brian Christopher Glaser examines the idealized, heteronormative male bodies that are reflected to us in popular culture--specifically, print magazines--by decontextualizing and distorting them. In “Little Splinters,” Glaser dissects these romanticized images of “unrestrained masculinity” into their discrete parts, arms, legs, hair, etc., amalgamating these singular elements human-scaled spears. The shape and placement of these spears recall the wooden fencing to which Matthew Shepard was bound when he was assaulted. Deeply affected by the images of Shepard alive and of footage of where he was tied, Glaser’s worldview was shaped by Shepard’s murder. Informed by his identity as a queer man, Glaser’s work contemplates, in his words, “the ways we identify with and develop self-assertive ambition from visual media, the fabrication of identity, sexuality, and self-esteem.” Jumbling the physical, virtual, and imagined self and other into unified forms, he reacts to the way external, societal constructs shape our internal psyches and perceptions of ourselves.

Similarly deconstructing iconic visuals to consider their influence on perception, Robin Mandel’s sculpture challenges normative domestic experiences by destabilizing them. Working perhaps from Eadweard Muybridge’s 1872 discoveries and the inception of motion pictures, Mandel adds tension to everyday objects. In "Anecdote (Relative Strangers #6)", Mandel presents an infant's milk bottle fastened to an electric motor atop a wooden stool spinning to a full blur at 500rpm. The forced, awkward motion of an otherwise distinguishable combination of objects produces a recognizable tension surrounding unrecognizable, personal forces. The compact work’s presence induces a sense of unease as we watch.

Whether reacting to direct experiences, or responding to cultural or societal interjections, we are looking at five artists who address the impact another has on the self. Separately, each work in well, position expressly reflects the experiences of each of the artists who created them. Considered together, positionality becomes both inherent and critical.

Well, position

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