Featuring works by: Derrick Adams, Joseph Beuys, Katherine Bradford, Edward Burtynsky, Naoya Hatakeyama, Georg Herold, Barbara Kruger, Robert Longo, David Maisel, Tony Matelli, Carlos Motta, Robin Rhode, Wilhelm Sasnal, David Shrigley, Ai Weiwei. Curated by Leo Barnes.
I think art is the only political power, the only revolutionary power, the only evolutionary power, the only power to free humankind from all repression. I say not that art has already realized this, on the contrary, and because it has not, it has to be developed as a weapon, at first there are radical levels, then you can speak about special details. – Joseph Beuys. “The Role of Documentation in Conceptual Art: An Aesthetic Inquiry,” by Robert C. Morgan, 1978.
In alluding to political power and freedom from repression, in the context of this exhibition, Joseph Beuys, presciently, believed that whatever negative stimuli becomes pervasive, artists must weaponize their response. Viewing media and technology pejoratively, as a deluge of oppression is but one perception. Another, of course, is that it shrinks and opens up the world.
Like artists from any period, those in this exhibition offer a critical analysis of their epoch. The images have an explicit awareness of the effects of new technologies on both the media and message of their agency. The first decade of the 21st century, from which these artists are drawn, familiarized the internet, social media, and smartphones to mass users. Through this filter, these artists transcribed their work. A decade or so on, the massive, initial flood of hi-tech media that starkly influenced their work makes their messaging appear blunt, unemotional, practical, and often, sardonic.
Acting like an enchanter, Joseph Beuys is the fulcrum for this project. In following his example, these artists mesh with politics, the environment, and what they perceive as social, moral, and cultural crises. Their blatancy forces the viewer to feel the jolt of their messaging. Some entertain, others prefer a more disturbing and uncomfortable stance. All emit an uneasy critique of the repressive inundation of information as they were experiencing it for the first time.
Made possible by the Hall Foundation and Art Bridges.
Oakland University Art Gallery