United States: Organix

Contemporary Artists from the U.S.A.

Catalogue of the Imago Mundi Collection "Organix" (2013) by Contemporary Artists from the U.S.A.Imago Mundi

ORGANIX: Equations for a non-verbal, non-linear, non-universal art of the present

There are two essential ways to approach the art of today. The more accepted route is to look for common themes, common practices, similarities, trends, movements – consensus and aesthetic harmony. An opposite approach focuses on the disparateness, disparity, dissent, rebellion, diversity, and sometimes even politically incorrect artistic stance. While most in the avant-garde art world seem to prefer the former approach, let’s instead focus on the latter which, to me, is more appealing, phenomenological and critical. One sees the world as something incomplete rather than complete, to expose the inconsistencies (lies) of nature and reality, rather than bury them under a heap of beautiful and conceptually engaging manmade objects. First let’s consider the situation of the visual artist today, as connected to the art market and to the critical/museological sector of the art world.

Jon “Stark” Allen - Amerika, Land of Apathy... Home of the Enslaved, Jon “Stark” Allen, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Jon Allen - Amerika, Land of Apathy... Home of the Enslaved (2013)

We have just witnessed the second or third phase of a contemporary art economic system designed (not by anyone in particular) to support the artist’s well-being and survival. Not too many years ago, most artists were unable to support themselves professionally in their art-making process. The ␣arving-artist syndrome is a well- romanticized memory. In the U.S. this syndrome bisected the historical genesis of the contemporary- art museum. These early vital institutions, today taken for granted, were largely founded by collectors of a new art who, though wealthy, were unwelcome on the boards of the established classical art museums throughout the U.S.

Steve Coy - The Eagle Has Landed, Steve Coy, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Steve Coy - The Eagle Has Landed (2013)

After World War II, an emerging American “nouveau riche,” consisting of many marginalized sectors of the society – Jewish, women, gay, African- American and Latino – struggled to gain power and egality in new cultural contexts. Without possessing “old money” historical clout, nor being “heterosexual male Christian folk,” they collectivized, many as contemporary art collectors, to later found numerous U.S. post-war contemporary art institutes and museums. The emerging U.S. contemporary art scene, including artists and galleries, occurred partly as a result of these new museums, founded in reaction to the cultural bigotries of the museum world at that time. It laid the foundation for a burgeoning system of financial support for living artists to take place in the second half of the 20th century. It also produced an extensive network of non-profit art organizations throughout the U.S., many started by artists themselves.

David Agbodji - Thank You For Not Smoking, David Agbodji, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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David Agbodji - Thank You For Not Smoking (2013)

Kevin Skinner - Know Where You Stand, Kevin Skinner, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Kevin Skinner - Know Where You Stand (2013)

When I moved to New York City in 1973, there were only a handful of known women artists, but today, 45 years later, there is a close parity between male and female artists. There is also much greater racial parity in the arts today. These significant new conditions are sometimes forgotten, as younger artists (black, white, Latino, Asian, male, female, gay, straight, rich, poor) begin their work today as professional artists.

Emil Lukas - Untitled, Emil Lukas, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Emil Lukas - Untitled (2013)

Meanwhile, partly due to these successes, the art world evolved (devolved?) like most urban centers, into a web of trendy boutiques, restaurants, alternative galleries, artist neighborhoods, infected with young technological and financial speculators. Genius grants given to uninteresting artists and writers have proliferated. Award ceremonies, once shunned by the art world as being intellectually unworthy are now embraced, today taken seriously as something integral and valuable to the arts. Notions of healthy competitiveness may suit the other arts, but seems out of place in the visual arts, which is more a critical and intellectual exercise, not merely a cheap joke, adolescent game or way to make a fast buck. Today, aspects of glut permeate the art and real worlds alike.

Christina Chalmers - Fragility, Christina Chalmers, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Christina Chalmers - Fragility (2013)

Ron Zakrin - The Human Nature Control Module, Ron Zakrin, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Ron Zakrin - The Human Nature Control Module (2013)

Much of the modernist tradition engaged itself in political and social issues of its day. In the 20th century, visual arts progressed from mere representation to a quasi-philosophical investigation of the conceptual and contextual underpinnings of art. A more critical art emerged. Abstraction led the artist and viewer to a paradoxical conclusion – a more meaningless (non-narrative) void conjoined with an ultimately more meaningful (experiential) notion of art. It mirrored Freud’s excavation of the unconscious – the unapparent, suppressed, hidden, masked – where meaning is uncovered from exploring the primal forces at play, those which lie underneath all apparent meanings.

Mateus Lages - Remember Rapa Nui, Mateus Lages, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Mateus Lages - Remember Rapa Nui (2013)

The art of the 20th century embodied an underlying fear or trauma with regard to various dehumanizing processes resulting from machines and new technologies. These technologies are both symbolic and real – extensions of the (hyper-) conceptualizing human brain. By the end of the century, a strong reaction to the conceptual in art making and an increasing embrace of the performative aspect of culture emerged. One can argue that the photo camera paved the way for the demise of painting with its ability to trump painting with its exactitude or representational skills. Early 20th-century artists were left floundering to invent a more conceptual, abstract, subconscious and phenomenological type of art.

Dawn DeDeaux - It Was the Last Thing I Saw, Dawn DeDeaux, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Dawn DeDeaux - It Was the Last Thing I Saw (2013)

David Byrne - Mix Tape, David Byrne, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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David Byrne - Mix Tape (2013)

However, at the end of the last century, a return to painting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, after a decade of what was thought to be a permanently diminished tradition of painting, was a violent shock to the players of conceptual art. A return to the performative or emotive aspect of art ensued, akin to practices of theater, ritual and body exorcism. By the end of the century this surprising return to theater emerged in the visual arts as a necessary means of artistic expression, as opposed to mere production.

Jungil Hong - Core Sampler, Jungil Hong, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Jungil Hong - Core Sampler (2013)

Fab Five Freddy - Self-portrait with Boom Boxes, Fab Five Freddy, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Fab Five Freddy - Self-portrait with Boom Boxes (2013)

Concurrently, an amplification of the marketing of art in the 1990s until the present, transformed the art world into a three-ring, seven-continent circus. Beginning should be in the 1990s in London, UK, a new phenomenon emerged from of a collusion of marketeers and complicit, and somewhat untalented, artists, coupled with media hype. This was the creation of a counterfeit or inorganic art market within the de fasto or organic market. The result was a rapidly ascending art-market speculative curve, with further wrackful speculative and spin-off contemporary markets in China and northern Europe. The damage seemed permanent, as in most ecological disasters today, but we are actually beginning to see blades of grass pop up through the post-Chernobyl-like art environs, a post-market-driven art by young people who are not only “in it for the money,” and a return to art being made for history or the long-term.

Bruce Davenport - Jr. I’m A Beast, Bruce Davenport, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Bruce Davenport - Jr. I’m A Beast (2013)

I discovered through this project that there is an emerging new platform of talent with both something to say and an ability to present it with great visual style often utilizing many new digital technologies. There is proof that the artist understands both the organic and the inorganic worlds and has the facility to use both in their work. The title of this essay, ORGANIX, refers to a previous century where mankind made conscious choices which undermined the health, safety and survival of its future inhabitants – the creation of insidious designs for greater corporate profit in energy systems, military industries, food produstion, transportation, pharmaceuticals and the like. Artists today are confronted with an ecological crisis which seems to outweigh any relevance of art or culture to our society. These social and political dilemmas transcend most examples of artistic sensation concocted by the most extreme of today’s artists.

Marianne Burrows - Lotus Gun, Marianne Burrows, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Marianne Burrows - Lotus Gun (2013)

Sean Ono Lennon - Untitled, Sean Ono Lennon, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Sean Ono Lennon - Untitled (2013)

Art has always been about freedom. Freedom from any strictures, rules or the status quo. Art has also been the scourge of the political world. We have only to look as far back to Ai Weiwei’s single-handed confrontation with the Chinese authorities or Pussy Riot’s performances confronting the Orthodox Church’s complicity with a corrupt Russian leader or Robert Mapplethorpe’s censorship dialogue with Senator Jesse Helms. Art is in the same business as politics – to change culture and the world. But art can be even more effective than politics, especially when more original or truthful.

Brandon Herman - Untitled (Parking Lot Explosion), Brandon Herman, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Brandon Herman - Untitled (Parking Lot Explosion) (2013)

Ryuichi Sakamoto - Stain, Ryuichi Sakamoto, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Ryuichi Sakamoto - Stain (2013)

In the selection of artists from the U.S.A. for this show, I am grateful to have encountered many new artists whose work, I feel, will continue to grow and thrive. It comprises only a part of a much larger and germinating group of miniature works in the Luciano Benetton Collection, gathered to form an enormous grid of international global artistic points. The larger collection emphasizes the bigger picture of art – culture. Culture is larger than art itself. We make art to change culture and the world. After the recent art-market-driven era, from which we are hopefully starting to emerge, we can again focus on the larger picture – culture.

Stephon Alexander - Dark Energy (Dedicated to Kolka), Stephon Alexander, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Stephon Alexander Dark Energy (Dedicated to Kolka) (2013)

The Benetton Group, which produced a new system of fashion and clothing of great simplicity, color, quality and affordability, democratized the fashion world. Through the company’s acclaimed advertising campaigns and use of social media, the public’s attention was directed to democratic and social issues of our real world. More recently, Luciano Benetton and Laura Pollini have shown that collecting art should not only be a matter of acquiring art as a symbol of status, rather something more creative and which celebrates the collective aspect of art – culture.

Christopher Chu - Directions, Christopher Chu, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Christopher Chu - Directions (2013)

This collection embodies a visual tapestry of the human artistic condition. It focuses on the society as opposed to the individual artist or art star. It rejects the notion of a universal theory of art in order to embrace a more open theory of art predicated on diversities of expression.

Bianca Casady - Man Made, Bianca Casady, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Bianca Casady - Man Made (2013)

As the art of the last century further collapsed formalities, today’s art is a hybrid of both skill and the casual, a mix of the conceptual (brainmade) with the expressive or performative mode (handmade).

Jack Greer - Hop a Fence, Jack Greer, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Jack Greer - Hop a Fence (2013)

This group of artists, all of whom live in the U.S.A., and represent all media, were commissioned to reduce their artistic vision to a tiny 4 x 5-inch canvas. We see filmmakers, video artists, physicicts, musicians, illu␣rators, graphic novelists, fashion designers, painters, singers, models, photographers and writers, each given the same task – to project their ideas (future) onto a tiny canvas (past). This humble task diminishes the power of the individual or artist in exchange for a collective statement or visual scape. It is perhaps another example of a United Colors of Benetton, but here presented as a collective collection and exhibition.

Jonathan Caouette - Just Remember That You Die, Jonathan Caouette, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Jonathan Caouette - Just Remember That You Die (2013)

We might equally discover methods in our own lives to deconstruct our powerful individual identities for the sake of the larger community, culture or society.

Diego Cortez

Steven Soderbergh - Bardot No. 1, Steven Soderbergh, 2013, From the collection of: Imago Mundi
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Steven Soderbergh - Bardot No. 1 (2013)


Credits: Story

Project management
Diego Cortez

Buffalo Arts Studio
David Klein Gallery
Library Street Collettive
N’Namdi Center for Contemporary Art
Studio la Città

Valentina Granzotto

Editorial coordination
Enrico Bossan

Luciano Benetton
Diego Cortez
Anthony Curis
Matt Eaton

Editing and translation
Emma Cole
Anna Franchin
Tom Ridgway
Pietro Valdatta
Martina Fornasaro

Art direction
Namyoung An

Marco Pavan

Mauro Bedoni
Marco Pavan

Laurie Anderson - Self-portrait As A Queen

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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