Digital C prints, silk screen ink and enamel on paper, frames, plexi
Brendan Fowler is best known for his performance work under the name BARR, for which he spins long-winded, humorous, self-deprecating and self-reflexive songs about such topics as the song he is singing, and relationships. His series of silkscreened posters take up similar strategies—stacking frames so that they cover some of the other pictures, and sharing discreet bits of his personal life. Fowler's solo show at RENTAL Gallery is on view through December 6.
It's not meant to read as a cross so much as non-specific leaning form. The object based side of my practice began with extended ephemera created/extended from my years of performance work - posters, text pieces etc. They began to get more sculptural (the crash pieces) and I have been trying to figure out how to take them from the wall more and more. This piece leans and honestly, I really cannot even begin to tell you how or even why I am so formally attracted to leaning works. But this is my first leaner of this construction, and it's sort of like a deployment unit from a one of the larger works in the show which is a large leaning wall assembled the same way, where the frames are attached face to face. That idea came from people asking how the crash pieces are made, and if they are sturdy -the answer is that they are incredibly sturdy and incredibly heavy because of the bracing that I build for the backs - which I love that people ask that and which I wanted to answer once and for all. The crashes are mysterious and I wanted to introduce a new wholly transparent construction strategy: the frame in front is clearly the brace for the other three frames. The wood is clearly screwed to the wood.
I took this photo at my mom's house in rural Maryland. It's her plant in her gazebo. Flowers arenew to my current work, as of this fall. I'm coming to them as the ultimate exhausted signifier of beauty. I'm thinking that they are so exhausted that they sort of say "nothing"—the word nothing, as in, negated—out loud. But everyone has to take them on—the Impressionists, Warhol, Wool, Laura Owens, ad infinitum—so they become a micro-conversation about personality. They become like your signature, a mark of penmanship. They are kind of an infinite feedback loop oscillating between impersonal and hyper-personal. I'm interested in both the exhausted flower as an abstract mark and the very genuine flower as signifying all the things that they signify specifically and not-so-specifically.
Thinking about this photo in particular, I will add that I grew up with my mother gardening and taking amateur photos of flowers. I went to visit her when I took this photo and in her bedroom was hanging my final project for my first printmaking class in college: it was a 26-color silk screen of flowers.
What's behind the turned-over frame? It's actually the full three color flower silkscreen print of the pattern you see just above it!
What you see on the screen in a small section of a large repeat print flower pattern. I made the original drawings with brush/ink then repeated them using Photoshop. This is one of the three screens that are involved in the print. It's a three-color print based off that paper that they wrap your flowers in at a deli.
The "cancelled" thing is a statement about optimism. For example, if an event at which you're performing is cancelled, you have the night free. If a tour is cancelled, you have two weeks to stay at home and work in your studio and sleep in your own bed. If an exhibition is cancelled, just look at all of this time and material you have floating around. The bottom line is removal to create potential, to create space.
How do you cancel a cancellation? This question came from a group show I participated in at Rental in May 2009, where I showed a wall of pieces made from these cancelled tour posters (CANCELLED Fall 2008 Westcoast Tour Poster, 2009). I had a solo show coming up the same year and I felt funny showing so much work in the same space twice in six months. I felt like I had to "erase" my work from the first show to make room for the second show.
I have thought for a while about the pre-digital photo tradition of slashing a negative once an edition is complete, and then printing the slashed negative as assurance that the edition was closed. I have thought about how I wanted to do this with a silkscreen. The slashed screen, the very literally opened screen became the strategy. The image is still there but abstracted into cancellation. To really drive the point home I wanted to introduce the slapstick, overkill element, so there is one wall in the show—actually the same wall I had in the group show—with nine of the posters, each one with one letter C, A, N, C, E, L, L, E, D. Then there were leftover letters so I integrated them into the other works in the show, such as this one. This one is actually three letters at once (N, C, E), hopefully cancelling each other further out.
How do you represent erasure graphically? My approach was to re-screen white through the original screens of the poster, over the original screened colors. In theory this would just cover the original three colors so that they still peeked out a little. But I had screened the initial posters with very loose registration so I actually couldn't screen the white over them. After screening a few I realized that I needed to let the white out of the lines so I diluted the ink with extra solvent, but the solvent-heavy white started picking up the black and purples from the under-layers and it became shades of grey.
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