a living, breathing brand
May 13 - June 10, 2017
Opening Reception, May 18th, 6-8pm
Featuring work by Pat Barry, Krista Birnbaum, Megan Harrison, Hillerbrand+Magsamen, Brendan O'Connell, Gissette Padilla, Brandon Ray, and Richard T Scott.
Essay by Alexandra Irrera
What is a more American than the brand? While mid 20th century pop art gave new, complex meaning to marketing and the manmade (both unmasking and upholding them), our national fascination with the object and tactility dates back to beginning of art in the United States. Carving a path through the clutter, a living, breathing brand captures and rearranges our “things” in a powerful attempt to offer perspective from within today’s world of ubiquitous products and promotion.
Several artists in a living, breathing brand approach the subject of consumerism through quantity. Brendan O’Connell portrays products in their wild habitat—the store. O’Connell’s shoes, cans of diet Coke, or pictures of Jesus appear in mesmerizing and pleasurable repetition—filling store shelves like heavy fruit ripe for harvest. In O’Connell’s work the store becomes the Amazon—lush and bountiful, but also deep and potentially treacherous. Brandon Ray displays our purchases in action. Situating his characters in a vast room of play stations, ball pits, trampolines, giraffes, and elephants, Ray reimagines Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights as an extravagant birthday party. Although carrying out activities of play, the characters’ blank faces and thin bodies (which almost disappear into the background), question the superficiality of their consumable pleasure. One step removed from this initial enjoyment, artist duo Hillerbrand+Magsamen investigate alternative uses of excess. In their clever hands, piles of Barbie dolls are transformed into meditative mandalas, and outdoor toys—fitted together with the precision of megalithic Peruvian masonry—become door-blocking walls.
Other artists in the show focus on materialism in a more intimate, subconscious style. Gissette Padilla spans the barrier between physical and psychological space with her simulacrum bag of flour or meal. Familiar, squashed, and lonely, the unmarked sack elicits pangs of empathy that reveal the essential role of packaged items in contemporary life. Objects in Krista Birnbaum’s CGI works are similarly anthropomorphic and uncanny. Here, Birnbaum provides us with the perspective of the floor-bound items themselves. Also skewing our sense of reality, Megan Harrison integrates the material and natural worlds. Painting an object-filled room in a feathery, romantic style, she creates an impression of reverence for the space that echoes a transcendentalist admiration of nature. Man has become both the subject of and carrier for branding in Richard T Scott’s endgame painting. Through this hybridization, Scott suggests a symbolic and literal loss of self amidst a painted aura of dreamy morbidity.
Though our current culture portrays the accumulation of things as thrilling, the artists in a living, breathing brand intimate that what we consume may actually consume us—our money, our bodies, and our time. Whether the pervasiveness of brand is viewed as empowering or disabling, an individual awareness of it can help each of us to define a relationship between material wealth and personal fulfillment.
Gissette Padilla, No Tenemos Nada, 2016
Pat Barry, UPC 0037000277828, 2017
Brendan O'Connell, Discount Jesus, 2016
Brandon Ray, Stanley and the Tattoo of Tall Tales, 2015 © Amazon Studios
Hillerbrand+Magsamen, Mandala 1, 2014
Krista Birnbaum, Just You Wait, 2016
Megan Harrison, Outpost 204, 2017
Richard T Scott, Man in Black, 2017