Curated by Chris Bors and Fred Fleisher
We can see how the exaggerated, caustic and often scarily playful could be wielded towards a politics of discontent by surveying examples of hyperbole throughout history including the writings of Oscar Wilde, James Ensor’s paintings, the caricatures of Honoré Daumier, the chaotic art of the Dadaists, underground cartoonists of the 1960s and 70s like Robert Crumb and contemporary painters such as Peter Saul and Judith Bernstein. This magnified attitude is exemplified in 1998’s Bulworth, starring Warren Beatty, a film that preceded Donald Trump’s rise to the presidency by almost 20 years. Professional wrestling and reality television, whose scripted feuds and over-the-top melodrama create heightened conflict, whichTrump has also been heavily involved with, are two forms of entertainment that remain undeniably popular despite their spurious nature. That this temperament finds its way into art and politics in 2017 is hardly surprising, as hyperbole remains a powerful, if blunt way to make a statement, even one as seemingly throwaway as the laughing/crying and vomit face emojis used on social media in reaction to an article, photograph or video.
The artists in Successive Excessive use a range of media to expose the undeniable strength of exaggeration. Chris Bors’s graphic, post-pop, conceptual paintings resembling silkscreen prints, political advertising, or t-shirt graphics feature a mash-up of images, in which any visuals are fair game for repurposing. With a cast of characters drawn from headlines from mass media, religious iconography and childhood memories, Andrew Chan attempts to draw humor and fascination from the life creeping around the edges of the everyday. The animations, drawings and installations of Mike Estabrook juxtapose historical horrors with present day ills, culminating in a nihilistic portrayal of society; we want to look away, but are compelled to see the story play out. Fred Fleisher employs contemporary and vintage images and objects in his work, which allows him to address the cultural noise that surrounds our everyday lives and ask imperative, yet often neglected, questions such as why do people live in a constant state of medium to high alert? Roxanne Jackson is fascinated with the natural processes of decay and destruction. Her macabre, detailed ceramic sculptures resemble alien cultural artifacts and explore themes of extinction, death and transformation. For Carl Gunhouse, the world of hardcore punk rock has provided both an escape from the mainstream and a welcoming environment in which he has documented a specific subculture in photographic form. The colorful sewn fabric and mixed media sculptures of Hein Koh present issues of life, death and sexuality with a personal handmade touch, blending traditional craft with a pop sensibility. Painter Joe Heaps Nelson presents awkward historical and contemporary narrative situations through a skeptical lens, chronicling the culture and trappings of America, as well as the ridiculousness of life on Earth. Judith Page’s sculptures using found objects embedded in Tar Gel create a conundrum: should we feel sorry for the state that she places them in or marvel at how they look at home in their captivity?