Art in the Round

contemporary American art, American artists, young American artists
"Shoppers" — Valerie Greene

Art in the Round: Analyzing America

August 04, 2008
by Liz Colville
Several current art exhibits are showcasing critical paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works that reflect the state of the Union and where it’s headed.

“Thoughts on Democracy”
Various Artists
“Thoughts on Democracy,” an exhibit currently on show at Florida International University, offers contemporary takes on four themes previously illustrated by Norman Rockwell, with democracy as their focal point. The works are a far cry from Rockwell’s posters, which, according to the New York Times, raised over a hundred million dollars for the U.S. during World War II. These modern “thoughts” are doomsday-like at their most subtle, grisly at their most candid. Rockwell’s “Freedom from Fear,” depicts parents putting their children to bed, but Chip Kidd’s version shows a blurred figure pointing a gun at the viewer. A slideshow of some of the exhibit’s offerings is available on The New York Times site.
“Black Friday”
Valerie Greene
Valerie Greene’s Black Friday installation consists of candid shots of regular people cut into paper doll shapes as they talk on cell phones, walk to their cars, push strollers—all with shopping bags in tow. Exhibited at the Market Gallery in Los Angeles, the shoppers are arranged in clusters that snake across the walls in fluid shapes. They protrude from the walls so that each casts a shadow on the white wall behind them. Up close, they make voyeurs of the audience, who can stare at each person longer than they’d be able to on the street. From a distance, the figures are like schools of fish or flocks of birds, engaged in the serious business of holiday shopping. View photos of the installation at Valerie Green’s Web site.
Shuli Hallak
America is a country of energetic industry, and in its many forms, industry can produce noise, mess and pollution. But photographer Shuli Hallak prefers to capture the beauty, organization, and originality of industry. “Cargo,” recently exhibited at Moti Hasson Gallery in New York, demonstrates Hallak’s fascination with cargo ships and ports. She writes on her Web site that she is “constantly amazed to think that these are the structures that operate the world on many levels.” Her pictures show the alignment of artificial light with sky, manmade structure with sea, and the quiet solitude of the industry’s workers with the quantity and energy associated with their work.
“USA Today”
Various Artists
The title might be the only lighthearted thing about this exhibit at London’s Saatchi Gallery, which boasts one of the best online portals for viewing art and also runs an art sale service through its Web site. Like the contributors to “Thinking About Democracy,” the artists in this exhibit focus on politics as well as fame, infamy, and globalization. Dash Snow presents, among other work, “Untitled (Hell),” a photograph of a Shell gas station’s neon sign with a blacked-out letter' ‘S’.’ The curator of “USA Today” writes that Snow “conceiv[es] the experience of ‘self’ as a by-product of mass media dissociation.”
“Waste Not, Want Not”
Various Artists
The American art scene wouldn’t be complete without a mass tribute to environmental awareness. Currently on show at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Long Island City, New York is “Waste Not, Want Not,” where dozens of artists have let loose outdoors to create sculptural commentaries about recycling, waste, junk, decay, and the beauty of manmade objects made to look like natural objects. One artist took the ubiquitous shopping cart and turned it into “Three Shopping Cart Situations”; a Flickr slideshow chronicles the nearly two weeks it took him to build the sculptures. The slideshow also offers pictures of other sculptures, including Rainy Lehrmann’s elegant cross-section of earth that almost seduces the viewer into thinking it’s just part of the landscape.

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