Fabien Castanier Gallery is proud to present My Sonic Youth, the LA debut for one of the UK’s most significant post YBA artists, Stuart Semple. Semple will take over Fabien Castanier gallery in Culver City this October with a series of new controversial artworks. Following a traumatic near death experience as a teenager studying fine art in the English countryside, Semple has gone on to exhibit in over 15 solo exhibitions internationally in China, Italy, London and NYC. He is best known for his paintings, which present an emotive and sociological perspective on mass culture. In My Sonic Youth, Semple uses painting, sculpture, and installation to explore social concepts in addition to dissecting the psychological evolution of youth culture over the course of several decades. The artist illustrates how spaces, communication, and music have changed drastically, forcing a generation of young people into a new kind of isolation. Heavily inspired by the music of his own youth, Semple uses references from music and art history to construct a fluid visual narrative, which tells the tale of a radical social and emotional shift among youth culture.
From the artist:
“My last series of work explored the idea that my generation and subsequent ones are the 'Anxiety Generation'. It talked about the way that the horrors of history had been buried over time and how the media serves as a numbing and stimulating antidote to that hidden fear. In the new series of works for 'My Sonic Youth' I am charting the course to that state through the rise and fall of the teenager as a social category. The work draws comparisons between the inversion of public and private space and the rise of the Internet and ‘anti-social’ media. The work also draws on a wide remit of inspiration from the prophetic song lyrics of the music of my youth, found photography including imagery from recently released Seattle Police Department photos of Kurt Cobain's death scene, archive images of Warhol's scars and images from internet-trash culture.
Two things happened in the first half of 1994. Kurt Donald Cobain was found dead on the floor of his greenhouse and the Fraunhofer Society released the first software MP3 encoder. In that moment physical music became digital and the teenage dream became a nightmare with its physical spaces starting their journey to becoming virtual.”
Throughout Semple’s account he points out that during the 1960s teen culture began to thrive, starting with the mod scene in London and reaching across to America where Warhol was creating young icons of a perfected counterculture. Both scenes were rooted in art, music, and ideas of a subversive creative community. This transition marked the beginning of the “counterculture superstar”, to rebel against popular culture, perfection, and the ideal, to create a new kind of celebrity. The spirit of the new celebrity lived on into the 80’s and 90’s, decades that Semple suggests mark the pivotal change in a generation of teens.
The idea of the “Teenager” no longer was a term used to reference a “fixed biological age” as Semple proposes, “it became an attitude and a set of cultural values…” and after a certain number of years the ideals of youth caused the “counter-culture” to become the mainstream thus displacing young people striving to live subversively.
In addition to this cultural shift and feeling of displacement came a social anxiety regarding the safety of our society’s youth. Semple explains this turn in history: “On the 3rd of June 1968, Valerie Solanis shot Andy Warhol, leaving him physically scarred and the open doors policy of the factory absolutely closed.”
“People said to lock the door and have an open house no more, They said the Factory must change and slowly slip away, But if I have to live in fear, where will I get my ideas, With all those crazy people gone, will I slowly slip away”
Lou Reed & John Cale
The world was no longer seen as safe for young people and with this new parental anxiety came seclusion. Seclusion happened in tandem with the rise of technology and consequently online forums became sanctuary for a sub-culture of young people. Later there came an alteration in private and public spaces, and then the virtual communities were no longer primarily made up of young people, but now an older generation of online users began to infiltrate online spaces.
Semple: “In the tangled web of the anti-social Internet we are all responsible for ‘brand me’... All our friends are beautiful, all their lives are perfect and if we don’t project the same we are worthless. Ironically with this ability to self-direct a fluid and fluctuating image comes a catastrophic resignation of true self-control. The more loved the distorted public persona becomes the more lonely and empty our private reality becomes. In the process of losing our self, we sacrificed our physical connections, exchanging them for a manipulated distorted digital link to other fictions.”
Projecting a manicured self-image in response to the change in public viewing, all things are seen and experienced through various forms of social media, turning these images and words into carefully constructed non-realities. However, despite all of this over-connectedness and unclear cultural lines, teenagers have once again developed a system for subversion. Through social media, music, and technology, teens have created a new kind of unspoken dialect.
This densely woven chronicle of generational displacement takes form in My Sonic Youth through several large-scale paintings, 3d stereogram prints, large format wallpapers, fun house distortion mirrors, large collage works on paper and sculptures. The exhibition will also be accompanied with a limited edition vinyl record, which will include a custom soundtrack featuring collaborations with several musicians. Proceeds from the vinyl sales will go to a youth charity.