Manifest Destiny—the commonly held 19th-century belief that Americans had a religious obligation to expand their whereabouts by conquering and settling the Western United States—continues to be an extenuating factor in many negative aspects of our modern-day history. The landscape around us is still being conquered and destroyed; the goal of many religions continues to revolve around the advancement of their beliefs; and resources are persistently accumulated through war, all of which have grave consequences. The destructive concept of “progress” is still held in the highest regard.
In her third solo exhibition at Klowden Mann, Los Angeles-based artist Rebecca Farr continues her investigation into these notions, bringing them into a contemporary context in a new show titled “Sweet Broken Now.” As part of a research process, Farr dedicated herself to combing through 80 years of Manifest Destiny, with the works themselves taking on the form of heavily textured paintings that consist of treated and collaged source material. This sort of critique of American history calls to mind the political/historical works of Sam Durant and Wangechi Mutu.
To acquire her source material, Farr sifts through thrift stores to seek out coffee table books from the 1970s and ’80s, which she subsequently destroys by ripping apart, painting on, affixing to canvas, and applying more paint. To Farr, the obliteration of the books mirrors the scorched earth left by Westward Expansion. The resulting 18” x 24” panels are meant to update the narrative of Manifest Destiny, placing the actions of the settlers into modernity, though an abstracted one. This abstraction makes the paintings resistant to literal time-stamping, permitting Farr to present the process of destruction and construction as an evergreen historical narrative.