Mass Media Meets Mixed Media in the Works of Cali Thornhill Dewitt
As a window onto culture and society, mass media has long been fodder for artists’ work. In keeping with the tradition of incorporating the everyday into art, contemporary mixed-media artist Cali Thornhill Dewitt creates unique combinations of images and words that possess a spirit of both critique and optimism.
In addition to making punchy, socially conscious visual art, Cali Thornhill Dewitt runs his own record label and publishing house, maintains a photography blog with his wife, directs music videos, and makes clothes. Of his eclectic endeavors Thornhill Dewitt has said: “I like the challenge of saying, ‘I’m going to do this’ and just doing it. Doing it, like, trial by fire. All these things are going to go wrong and it’s going to be a real time learning process.” Among the fruits of his learning processes is the selection of his new text-and image-based works now on view in a solo exhibition titled “Busted on The Hot Spots,” at Copenhagen’s V1 Gallery.
Ranging from mid- to large-scale, these digital prints on vinyl and other supports are full of intentionally jarring juxtapositions. To make them, Thornhill Dewitt culls images from various sources including the internet and mass media, and combines them with phrases pulled from news headlines, spam e-mails, advertisements, and street slang, among other sources. Through this sampling and recombining, the artist concocts new messages. They resemble the look and feel of those generated by the mass media, but instead offer pointed social critiques.
“VICIOUS PHYSICAL ATTACK” scream the large, white block letters stamped across the face of the piece by the same name. This frightening phrase is combined not with images of brutality but of two lush, red roses, whose only (and minor) danger lies in their thorns. “EASY LIFE NOW POSSIBLE” trumpets the text of another work, combined with greatly enlarged images of pills. And the slang phrase, “GLORY HOLE,” with its subversive sexual connotations, is emblazoned across the front of a number of compositions, each one bearing an image of a bullet hole.
For the artist, who has an optimistic outlook, these works are not only dark and critical but also infused with hope and humor. Contemporary society is a mess of contradictions and ills, he seems to suggest, so we might as well identify the issues, work to make them better, and stay positive along the way.