SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS is pleased to present A Primitive Future, an exhibition featuring new work by AJ Fosik, Ben Venom, Frohawk Two Feathers, Haroshi, Lucien Shapiro, and Ravi Zupa.
A Primitive Future focuses on the cultural, social, economic, and guiding principles of past versus future belief systems and practices. How do we determine right and wrong or acceptable and unacceptable in both the aesthetics of art and in societal behavior? How will colonialism take shape in the future? How has craft morphed with the everyday and become timeless? Has society in general become more “civilized” or are we the same just in different form? What can the future look like?
The selected artists touch on some of the above questions through form, subject matter, or both. More importantly, they question the conventional idea of what the (conflicted) term primitive means or is associated with. The late 19th century deemed ‘primitive art’ as simplistic in form and color and lacking in linear perspective and depth. This style was eventually adopted by well-known French and German artists and embraced for its honesty, spontaneity and emotional charge. In the visual arts, it stood for a rejection of the corrupt values of the West, perpetuated by the effects of industrialization and the Great War. However the term primitive, when used in an anthropological context, applied to ‘early’ cultures but was often interpreted as meaning savage or inferior. Today, that interpretation is highly criticized as narrow minded, inconsistent, and indicative of people’s inability to self-reflect.
Depending on your interpretation, future generations might do better if there was a return to ‘primitivism’ through aesthetics and experiences as opposed to the unemotional engagement tied to an increasingly digital, remote-controlled world.
The exhibition is not meant to answer any of these questions, or to satisfy one particular interpretation or association. It instead highlights the confusion and the possibility surrounding the present, the past, and the future and invites the viewer to take a trip into the minds of six artistic visions that weave them all together.
About the Artwork:
Zupa’s work references the concept through subject matter, turning the adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton that the “pen is mightier than the sword” on its head. This statement advocated that communication or advocacy of an independent press is a more effective tool than direct violence. For A Primitive Future, Zupa has created weapons out of typewriter parts. Typewriters are a tool meant to celebrate communication, thought, and ideas. In Zupa’s hands, they have been repurposed into weapons, the same type of weapons that have ironically been used to quiet and subdue free speech in recent terrorist attacks.
Frohawk’s work also touches on the concept through subject matter, focusing on colonialism and the different faces it takes, ultimately re-imagining the present, past, and future. His installation, titled Triumphus for Andre I, depicts victorious portraits, scenes, and related artifacts of an invented character: the Great Andre I, Emperor of Hispaniola. Frohawk uses historical fiction and visual narrative to weave a tale of ‘Enlightened Despotism.’ While his characters may be ‘fictional,’ they eloquently parallel motivations for past atrocities and today’s realities.
Shapiro’s installation, See No Hear No Speak No, deals with the concept through medium. He makes sculptures, masks, and weapons out of found objects, cast forms, and discarded oddities. These are creations built from and reflective of today’s urban landscape and our continual state of over-consumption. Everyday items have become neglectfully disposable, and there is an immediate desire for what’s new and what’s next. In his own words, his works “transform forgotten objects into nostalgically interesting and beautiful relics that compel viewers to re-evaluate what our everyday possessions represent and mean to them. I invite the viewer to slow down, to not only gain appreciation for the artifacts that tell a story about who we are in this day and age, but to find inspiration in the value of time and craft.”
Venom’s work also deals with the concept through medium, couching the traditionally ‘folksy’ practice of tapestry-making into present terms with hardcore subject matter. He defies conventional expectations and encourages a return and an appreciation for texture, material, and substance that is slowly disappearing in the wake of digital culture.
Haroshi’s work also deals with the concept through form, using wood from discarded skateboards to fashion beautiful, polished sculptures. His pieces take materials from a rebellious subculture and reinterpret them into rebellious fine art. In each sculpture, he implants a metal object from a broken skateboard, giving ‘soul’ to the statue in the way that Japanese sculptors from the 12th century did when sculpting Buddhas. This archaic relationship between man and creation transcends time and cultures, running a common thread between how humanity relates manifestations of their beliefs of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Simply put, Fosik’s carvings appeal to the human eye because they embody what is innate and timeless in humanity: representations of the self through animalistic beauty and spiritual iconography. These aspects are mastered in his bold, colorful, hand-carved sculptures that incorporate physical elements used throughout time and across cultures. However, Fosik’s idols are purposefully absent of meaning and religious discourse. Instead, they examine the nature of spiritual iconography, perhaps asking: can we create idols of the everyday, about the everyday, out of the everyday?
The opening reception for A Primitive Future is Saturday, December 5 from 8 to 11 pm. The exhibition will be on view through Wednesday, January 6. An RSVP is required for the opening reception to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Artists:
AJ Fosik received a Bachelor of Fine Art in illustration from Parsons School of Design in New York City. Fosik’s work has been exhibited in galleries across the nation including New York, Philadelphia, Miami, and San Francisco. He has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Brooklyn Rail, and Tokion. He currently lives and works in Portland, Oregon.
Ben Venom graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007 with a Master of Fine Arts degree. His work was included in the November 2011 issue of ARTFORUM Magazine, and he was selected for Bay Area Now 6 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Venom was interviewed on NPR: All Things Considered and by Creative Mojo Radio. His work has been shown both nationally and internationally. He is currently adjunct faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute.
Frohawk Two Feathers received a Bachelor of Art from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the 21C Museum (Louisville, Ky.). He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, Calif.
Haroshi is from Tokyo, Japan, where he is currently based. As a passionate skater from his early years to present, Haroshi possesses a thorough knowledge of the anatomy of a skateboard and all of its parts, including the decks, trucks and wheels. Known for his large sculptures made from recycled skateboard decks, and with no formal art training, he adapted the determined perseverance, freedom of expression and DIY ethos of skate culture, into creating works of art.
Lucien Shapiro is a San Francisco-based sculptor and performance artist. He received a Bachelor of Fine Art in sculpture from Academy of Art University in 2003. His work has been exhibited at Guerrero Gallery (San Francisco, Calif.), New Image Art (Los Angeles, Calif.), and Bedford Gallery (Walnut Creek, Calif.).
Ravi Zupa considers books the best way to experience art and has spent decades studying art from cultures and movements that span history and originate from nearly all geographical regions. Being entirely self-taught, he looks for inspiration in works by German Renaissance print makers, Flemish primitives, abstract expressionists, Japanese woodblock artists, Mughal paintings, and religious iconography from Europe, Asia and Pre-Columbian Latin America, and revolutionary propaganda the world over. He lives and works in Denver, Colo.
SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS is a multifunctional gallery space promoting diverse forms of art while providing a forum for contemporary dialogue. It was established by Shepard Fairey and Blaize Blouin in 1995 and played an integral part in introducing skateboarding culture and design to the art world. Now located in the historic neighborhood of Echo Park, SUBLIMINAL PROJECTS continues to offer a platform for artistic exploration and innovation. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 12 to 6 pm.