"Thread" by Rebecca FitzPatrick and "Multiples" by Owen F. Smith
This August Whitney Art Works is pleased to present Multiples
by Owen F. Smith
by Rebecca FitzPatrick
. On view August 5 - 29. Opening reception Friday, August 7, from 5 - 8 pm.
I had this urge to connect Beat poetry with these artists, something pared down and observational, riding the line between art and life for Owen Smith, and mythical, borrowing from religious practices world-round and distilling them in some Kerouac-ian, mountaintop, Zen moment for Rebecca FitzPatrick. Unfortunately, this amalgamation is only in this writer's head, defying actual existence in a single poem, yet perhaps this instinct points towards the divergent positions of the of these two artists. More specifically, divergent but not unrelated. Rebecca FitzPatrick meditates on incongruity and how it leads to subconscious, mythical, and universal discoveries. Owen Smith works in the Fluxus tradition of making/challenging artwork by being concept-driven, concentrating on the opposition of natural life and constructed idea and how they are chased around by "art practices". Both derive their materials and inspiration from already existing sources, seeking to create something far more startling or open-ended.
Rebecca FitzPatrick takes a shamanistic approach to her work, summoning unexpected idols, weird, mandala-like moments, or brief icons of an existentialist nature. She says in an interview with Ian Paige (Phoenix October 7, 2007), �the more I learn about comparative mythology, the more I imagine the current role of the artist as being a cleric, a sanctioned role in our society". As meditative and spiritual as her work may be, she is not above some gleeful play. Her go-to method of working is to to cut out hands. These hands then join to make ropes, collectively and anonymously point, beg, or gesture. They seem symbolic of the empowered nature of community (not quite slipping into mob mentality) but are also good-naturedly absurd. Citing the Dada movement as an early influence, it is easy to see the origins of FitzPatrick's sense of juxtaposition. In her works these juxtapositions fuse expertly to become cohesive figures. The vintage look derived from the print material also conjures up Dadaist collage. A bird covers/becomes the head of a meditating man. He becomes nonsensical but also god-like which is probably part of what Dada was all about, earnestly claiming to be nothing but delighting in being everything, sublime.
FitzPatrick was originally interested in re-mixing consumer culture by disseminating print and advertising material and pointing out it's artificiality by giving it new life. Her wish to deconstruct has gradually turned into a desire to make whole. When asked �why hands� she answered that images of stacked hands had floated into her consciousness after meditation. Her works seek to either be self contained, casting slight voluminous shadows on stark paper, or to envelop with meditative repetition through installation.
Owen F. Smith picks his way through nothing and everything."My work not only seeks to act in the gap between art and life, but it also explores the gaps between language and meaning and between process and product." For this show at Whitney Art Works, Smith is displaying many series of art multiples created throughout a number of years. Sometimes the multiples document installations or events while others are based on original pieces. Other multiples serve to further the dialog between exhibitions and viewers, like the most interactive packaged object to have ever been bought in a museum gift shop. Ultimately, these multiples require an unwinding sort of appreciation. Smith claims to be standing against the Western tradition of "presence" which, until modern times and even beyond has occupied the pinnacle of artistic worth and achievement. "In shifting away from privileging of the object in my own work, I seek instead to open up the possibilities of enactment as a manifestation of the desire to participate without fixed goals or definitive characteristics; not to "score more points" or "to create the ultimate expression of..." but to play, to reform, to associate, to create without a sought after (traditionally required) predetermined end and in this way process becomes not just the means to the end but the core of what is important and valuable." Smith goes beyond a be-all, end-all fabulousness in art -the kind that resists change, life, manipulation, and contemplation- towards a spiraling chain of interactions. In his work, the object is secondary to its journey as an asterisk on a gallery wall toward an ultimate transformation in the hands of it's owner. "The multiples that I produce are not just more art objects, but are keys to a world of insight, humor, political engagement, and thought-provoking questions. Some of the multiples are silly and some are serious but all attempt to create new means to think and act in the spaces between the traditional boundaries of the artistic, the commercial and the philosophical. "
Rebecca FitzPatrick holds an undergraduate degree in Painting from the University of Southern Maine. She has created site-specific installations for the Sacred and Profane Festival in Peaks Island, Maine and at the Ralph Lauren Flagship Store in New York, NY. Additionally her work has been exhibited at Space Gallery, Center for Maine Contemporary Art, and at the Portland Public Library among others. Her work has been profiled in Maine Home and Design Magazine, the Portland Phoenix, Portland Press Herald, and Portland Magazine.
Dr. Owen F. Smith is the Director of the Intermedia MFA Program at the University of Maine. He is also a professor of Art History and Digital Art in the Department of Art and the Chair of the Department of New Media. He received his BA in Art History and Russian Studies, his MA in Anthropology and his PhD in Art History from the University of Washington in Seattle. He is a specialist in Modern and Contemporary art, particularly what he calls Alternative Art Forms. He has lectured widely in the US and Europe on art in the 20th Century. His seminal book on the history of fluxus, Fluxus: a History of an Attitude
, was published by San Diego State University Press. Owen Smith is also a practicing artist who works in digital art and new media forms and has exhibited his work in over 80 national and international exhibitions over the last ten years.
Whitney Art Works is open from 12 - 6 pm Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment.