Exploring American Mythology: East Meets West
For Santa-Fe based artist Billy Schenck, and Bronx, NY born John “CRASH” Matos, culture, heritage, and the inherent symbols within are at the root of their artistic process.
For both CRASH and Schenck, specific references are derived from both popular culture as well as through the appropriation of cultural signs and symbols stemming from a certain time and place. The artists create a dialogue by incorporating popular imagery from sources such as comic books and iconic Hollywood Westerns that speak to their individual backgrounds and establish new connections within the mythologies of the genre.
Growing up in the Bronx, CRASH started out with simple tags, expanding into sweeping throw-ups and more detailed pieces and murals over time. His work is rooted in the motifs and visual language of graffiti, incorporating iconic elements such as crown and arrow symbols which were a way for graffiti writers to communicate with both each other as well as others who were in the know. CRASH’s work has evolved over time, and continues to redefine the cultural space graffiti and street art occupy. His use of many of the same motifs can still be seen. Between the illicit and the established, the grit and equalizing nature of the street, and the clean white of the gallery space, graffiti has grown as an art form, while retaining a sense of kinship amongst the artists as peers. An inexorable part of a community which has grown around it over time, graffiti culture is part of CRASH’s visual language, rooting as well as propelling his work in its mythology.
Billy Schenck’s paintings have a very specific code of reference as well - the mythical American West. Taking a contemporary approach to the iconic subject matter, Schenck, who himself resides on a ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico blends a pop sensibility with a true love for the Wild West as portrayed in classic Hollywood films. Signifiers of this setting can be seen in Schenck’s use of cowboy hats, bright neckties, two barrel revolvers, the classic “spotlight” of stark reliefs and radiant, golden-orange sunset hues. These are all symbols for a particular kind of fictional setting, often populated by a stylized version of the Marlboro Man. Our level of familiarity with these symbols of what is colloquially known as Spaghetti Westerns (to which Django Unchained by Quentin Tarantino is a contemporary tribute), enables a deeper resonance to Schenck’s visual language.
Please join us for Bill'y upcoming solo exhibition at JoAnne Artman Gallery NYC - “Saddle Up” New Works by Billy Schenck Fall/Winter 2017 (November 14 - December 16)