EVERYTHING IS HILARIOUS AND NOTHING IS REAL
MAY 5 – JUNE 25, 2016
Imagine if Abraham Lincoln had a Twitter feed, or if Lewis and Clark were on Facebook. In his first exhibition at Modernism Gallery, Shawn Huckins satirically juxtaposes American history with internet culture to simultaneously explore our collective past and future.
Each of Huckins' sixteen canvases is based on a 19th century painting or photograph which he meticulously copies by hand, superimposing text culled from social media. Despite extreme differences in idiom, Huckins finds 21st language to elaborate or comment on the content of classic genre pictures and portraits.
For instance, Huckins recreates George Caleb Bingham's 1847 "Raftsmen Playing Cards" with the words EVRYTHING IS HILARIOUS N NTHING IS REAL. "A Gorge in the Mountains", composed by the Hudson River painter Sanford Robinson Gifford in 1862, is embellished with the word LO$$$T. And an 1863 photograph of Robert E. Lee simply gets the expression ugh printed across the Confederate general's face.
Huckins is particularly interested in the impact of technology on language. "Technology influences how much we know and what we believe, as well as how quickly and intelligently we convey our ideas," he says. "As goes our grammatical literacy, do our social and cultural literacies follow?" Attempting to find social media jargon to speak for a time in history when letters were carefully composed by pen, he tests how much can be said in a tweet, and how much is abandoned.
However, in the tradition of Ed Ruscha, Huckins' artwork is as much about painting as language, and depends on his extreme skillfulness for its visual impact. As the critic Michael Paglia writes in Art Ltd., "The refined sensibility of the original paintings and of the formal portrait photos that Huckins references sets up extreme contrasts to the vulgar world of our own time, which is laid bare by the meanings inherent in the inserted text." The contrast is crucial for Huckins, and works both ways; the edgy language encourages us to look at historical paintings and photographs with fresh eyes.
Neither venerating nor vilifying the language of social media, Huckins refers to texting as "a growing and evolving method of communication which changes as does our world." Building on Pop Art and the appropriations of Pictures Generation masters such as Richard Prince, Huckins' paintings confront our latest mode of expression to reveal what has changed in our world and what remains perennially the same.
SHAWN HUCKINS (born 1984, Laconia New Hampshire) currently lives and works in Denver, Colorado. His work has been exhibited nationwide.
The public is cordially invited to attend an opening reception on Thursday, May 5th, from 5:30-8PM. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CALL: 415/541-0461 / FAX: 415/541-0425,
OR EMAIL TO: INFO@MODERNISMINC.COM. HI-RES IMAGES AVAILABLE ON REQUEST.