West World: Previewing The Wild Bunch at JoAnne Artman, New York
There are few subjects in American history that can ignite the imagination as much as the mystery, romance, and mythology associated with the American Frontier. The theme of the Wild West has long been popular in American art, film, and literature. In HBO’s Westworld, the sci-fi drama explores the fascination and romanticism associated with the Wild West. Set in a time known for adventure, danger, and excitement, the American Southwest is a great veneer for the futuristic theme park while providing a blank slate to explore the individualistic spirit, exploration, lawlessness, and untouched nature of the era.
The romance of the Old West and the temptation of corruption and vigilantism that juxtaposes its unbridled purity reminds modernity of the freedoms it represents in our imaginations. Visually mythologized by the vast spaces and liberties inherent in the genre, the aura of a land continually regenerated through dreams of independence and gratification remains an innovative locale for both the entertainment industry and for consumers’ fantasy.
Image Courtesy: HBO
Often, the visual imagery associated with the Wild West and depictions of Western Expansion is heavily tied in with the folklore that has been created around the Wild West and Native American tradition. Artists Billy Schenck, Greg Miller and America Martin all have their own particular ties to the vast landscape and history of the region that was once considered the Frontier. In their recent bodies of work, each artist independently explores this history through imagery sourced from both personal narrative as well as popular culture.
Billy Schenck utilizes specific frames of reference in his oil on canvas depictions of the American West, establishing visual links between notable moments of American and film history, along with the history of visual modes of production. Frequent motifs in Schenck’s work include heroes, villains, the seductive femme fatale, as well as alluring imagery of Native American figures, frequently juxtaposed with subversive text and a pop sensibility.
“For me, the western myth is a metaphor for many aspects of life in general. It has the ability to keep expanding like a parallel to the expanding universe. If you look at every caption painting I have done since the mid 1980s (see Under Pressure above), every single one takes on some aspect of every western cliché́ there is, and undermines it and turns it on its head,” says Schenck.
Greg Miller’s mixed media approach ties together the history of Pop Art, the processes of collage and assemblage as well as the concepts of urban decay and collective memory. “The Wild West represents the past, present, and future,” he explains. “I construct and deconstruct the truth between urban streetscape and history. I am always inspired by this; it’s in my blood.”
Utilizing collected paper ephemera, Miller creates tangible, evocative, visual narratives across his compositions through both image and text. Often using historical texts, illustrations, newspaper and photographs as a base, Miller completes the works with elements of typography as well as the painted form resulting in visual landscapes of great narrative depth. His unique brand of Americana celebrates ties to iconic imagery that transcends the passage of time.
LA-based America Martin often treats the figure and background with equal importance. In her recent body of work, she returns to the subject of Native American portraits, mixing indigenous motifs with her signature style and featuring depictions of the human form as solid, grounded, and in tune with its environment and spirit.
“When I was 12 I read the book “My Friend Flicka” and discovered this place called Montana,” says Martin. “If you are not familiar with this book – It’s about a girl who grows up on a ranch in Montana, and she has a pony name Flicka. As she comes of age she goes through the trials and tribulations of raising a pony. The Horse part was great, but the description of the land was so spell binding that I went bananas for Montana and somehow convinced my parents for our summer holiday to drive there from Los Angeles. And we did. We camped all along the way and when we got to the Codon River Valley just north of Missoula and before White Fish, my parents drank the Kool-Aid, – They were hooked.”
“They ended up finding and buying a cabin in the woods on the Condon River. And I spent the rest of my summers running wild, thinking I was Tom Sawyer and Robinson Cruso. It was the Land of The Black Feet Nation and my Love, Respect and Admiration for the Wild West has continued to be a place of inspiration.”
JoAnne Artman Gallery, Presents: “THE WILD BUNCH” FEATURING BILLY SCHENCK, GREG MILLER + AMERICA MARTIN
Artist Reception: Thursday, September 5th, 2019 from 6pm-8pm
Please RSVP: 949.510.5481 by August 29th, 2019
JoAnne Artman Gallery 511A West 22nd St. | New York, NY 10011 Contact: JoAnne Artman
Telephone: 949-510-5481 | E-mail: [email protected]