Travis Somerville (American, born 1963) has garnered critical attention in numerous publications including The Washington Post, Art in America, FlashArt and The Los Angeles Times.
His work is included in numerous Museum collections, including SF MoMA; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; the 21c Museum in Louisville, KY; the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, CA; the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The work of Travis Somerville functions as a craft of anti-nostalgia and critical memory, and the artist’s work presented at ARCO Madrid showcases Somerville’s sharp and creative insistence on how images and material objects are never merely inanimate relics of a past far removed from our presents or our futures. Somerville compels us to reconsider and repudiate the standard measure of America’s history of white supremacy and racism as a progressive narrative that has seemingly ended on an utopian note of post-race. The work shown at ARCO Madrid demonstrates a scripting of American history that forgoes this progressive wish fulfillment, a rhetoric of non-culpable hope. Instead, Somerville’s work intermingles visual and verbal references to the semiotics of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Age of Obama.
As Somerville himself points out that his work complicates the sense of a collective memory about how race has shaped the political, historical, cultural, and social contours of America: “As I attempt to navigate the terrain between autobiography, history, and art, all sorts of collisions take place. It is these interesting moments and the inconsistencies that inform them that I try to capture in my work.” Through the restaging of old advertisements and newspapers, vintage money bags and cotton sacks, and the poignant juxtaposition of his drawing and painting against found photos, Somerville brilliantly entices the viewer to marvel over the aesthetic power of American culture’s everyday brutality and myopia.
About Travis Somerville