An exhibition review for Stolen Goods was released by the Dillsburg Banner on January 13, 2022. The review is part of the “Inside Art” section of the Dillsburg paper and was written by Joseph and Barrie Ann George.
Stolen Goods at Marketview Arts
For some, creating art is simply making something aesthetically attractive. However, some artists and curators view art as something more. They view art as a way to scrutinize contemporary history and to explore under-examined narratives in order to create a meaningful dialogue with the viewer.
The election of 2020 certainly polarized the nation. Competing notions of what constituted American history and who was to be included in that understanding “duked” it out. Topics such as immigration, equality, and inclusion created a heated environment that continued past the election into the events on January 6, 2021. “Stolen Goods,” the current exhibition on view at Marketview Arts in York, unabashedly tackles these issues with uncensored, thought-provoking art.
Opening on the anniversary of the Capitol Riots, this exhibition explores direct reactions to the events of that day but does not simply stop there. In discussing the impetus for the show, Matthew Clay-Robison, Director of the York College Galleries, looks at the language of the “Stop the Steal” movement, delving deeper into questions of who and what has been stolen and from whom, throughout American history. Who the country belongs to, who gets to protest, and who is included in the story of America all play into the compelling works that are inspired by these themes.
Directly addressing the events of a year ago, “January 6th” by Matthew Blackwell uses a series of oil paintings on eight panels, which depict various scenes, some of which were made famous by the media. Painted in the vein of Outsider art, the paint is bright and textural, imparting the sense of chaos and confusion of the day.
Tackling the same point in time is “We the People” by Jacob Cullers, an inkjet print on vinyl, with camo fabric, linen, deer hide, oil, and enamel paints. One large image of the Capitol Riots is the basis for this mixed media creation, as it shows people ramming into the building about to breach its doors. The added marks react to the image and the added fabrics create the visual symbols of the people at the Capitol in this piece is about the dangers of extreme nationalism. Splashes of color express the atmosphere of violence and danger.
What has been perceived as divisive messaging is used in “Complicit” by Kate Kretz, a sculpture created from an official MAGA hat and letters from it pieced together and appliquéd to the front, with embroidery. The piece is part of an ongoing series of work constructed entirely of MAGA hats that have been ripped apart, an action the artist described as “cathartic” as she manipulates the pieces into objects that function as corrective physical manifestations of the truth, as the artist views it.
Other hot-button political issues are addressed by several artists. “Retraction” by Susanne Slavick is an oil painting on a wood panel, of a segment of the southern border wall, which has a red carpet of welcome leading to it. Yet it appears to lead to certain peril, as once a potential migrant scales the wall, there is a descent into a ditch, dashing hopes of freedom.
“Incoming” by Andrew Ellis Johnson is an updated and ironic allegory of Manifest Destiny that blends historical and current references to the seizure of land and resources along with xenophobic and hypocritical attitudes toward migrants and disease. Created on an expansive sheet of paper with ink and distemper paint, the historic imagery seems to melt into current-day scenes; covered wagons drawn by an invisible horse, a frontier couple transforming into armed police, and a body taken away on a stretcher all share the artistic plane. The layers of detail in each scenario invite the viewer to consider the connections within the stories.
“The American Dream, Baby” by Dillon Samuelson is a mixed media construction illustrating a shadowy house, complete with a white picket fence, set atop a hill, comprised of darkened shapes-limbs, animals, people, and other “victims” upon whom the “American Dream” has been built. The sky glows an ominous red as the American flag flies in the yard, begging the question of at what price is the “dream.”
With an intriguing use of creative and engaging graphics and animation, a series of short videos by Paul Rucker tackle issues such as the U.S. prison system in “Proliferation”, the distribution of the slave population in the Southern states from the 1860 census in “Density”, the tragedy of lynching murders of African Americans in “Stories from the Trees Parts 1 and 2”, and how Confederate cotton sales were born on the back of black slaves in “When We Were Useful.” The arresting, mesmerizing shorts capture the attention of the viewer, forcing them to confront the powerful messages of the videos.
While Clay-Robison does not view the need of all art to be engaged in a socio-political commentary, he thinks that “Stolen Goods” is an opportunity for artists to challenge what political philosopher, Frantz Fanon called “the aesthetics of respect for the established order.” Clay-Robison states “we live in a visual culture; the production and consumption of images is driving culture and training us to see the world in certain ways. Art is a part of that whether it wants to be or not and we (as artists and curators) need to be aware of that power and what we produce.” “Stolen Goods” is a testament to the power of this imagery and a provocative show that both stimulates and challenges the viewer to digest the issues that confront America today.
“Stolen Goods” is on display at Marketview Arts, 37 W. Philadelphia Street, York through February 23.
The gallery is open:
Tuesday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Wednesday: 12-7 p.m.,
Thursday: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.,
Friday - Saturday: 10 a.m.-9p.m.
Joseph George holds a degree in history and art history from Dickinson College. He and his wife, Barrie Ann have spent over 30 years together traveling and visiting art galleries locally and throughout the world. They have been writing about the art scene for nine years both locally and internationally. Their tastes range from fine art to street art.
Original article from Dillsburg Banner