Daily Archives: May 7, 2013

McClusky’s Circus Collages @ INTUIT

However specific what we know about him may be, a distinct lack of further biographical information builds up an aura of mystery around C.T. McClusky’s works covering the walls of the backroom at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art.Image

He’s known to have worked as a circus clown in mid 20th century and his artworks are rooted directly in the unique atmosphere of his surroundings. This complete set of works were discovered by John Turner in 1975 at a flea market , then working as a curator for the now closed Museum of Craft and Folk Arts in San Francisco and it’s easy to imagine his delight upon coming across a beaten up suitcase full of drawings and collages reminiscent of Toulouse-Lautrec’s scenes of European night life and the ruckus of a transitional period, where the early modernist/revisionist agenda and romantic decadence were at play in fairly equal measure.

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The modestly sized works on display are McClusky’s reflections on the lively nature of daily circus life. He’s role is one of an observer, peaking in other entertainers practicing their tricks, girls and elephants glorified to no end. A couple of pieces have large newspaper clippings, detailing the competitive nature of the camp from the perspective of a reporter. But despite the festive nature of this environment, an unmistakeable

air of melancholy is present within each picture. Pictures of animals are cut from cereal and cracker boxes, while candy wrappers are employed to take care of special effects. Cowboys on horses, office workers and ballerinas are placed around the stage in one picture, while another combines a plate of sausage and beans with barely dressed dancers. One can feel McClusky’s longing for the conventional lifestyle of American families as a couple of drawings compositionally pit bundled up groups of animals against merry families with children on bike rides or walking into idyllic pastures. The artist is fully aware of his seperation from these norms but still manages to appear victorious by owning up to the curious nature of his occupation.

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These collages are child like and naive one second yet appear to be expertly put together the other. Materials and dimensions of the work help the immediacy of the narratives at place. It is easy to feel transported right next to McClusky, as if everyone has taken a break and the best thing to do is try and write a letter to those at home, unfortunately there is no other home or a recipient on the other end. Lastly, adding to melancholy of the whole show, is the suitcase found at the flea market. Curiously it is not placed centrally but despite being shut close,bulky and powerful it trembles with vitality as all the drawings are now matted and framed, but the suitcase claims its space silently, scuffs and dents all over it, pointing back to a world weary traveler, who was truly alone.

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emre k.

CERN: Jeremy Bolen at Andrew Rafacz

This work has long left the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, but is still worth noting.

“In Unititled (CERN7.18.12), at least six intertwined methods of observing through recording are employed, in an almost desperate attempt to form a more complete document of the liminal space between the real and simulated,” writes Monica Ryan of Jeremy Bolen’s work. Bolen does indeed combine layers and methodologies of perception into his flattened frames. But the flattening is not, as Ryan posits, suspended by the various sources and methodologies used to create its contents. Rather, the framed composition of the works give a sensation of a complex scrapbook or collage: a view to a memory or place through multiple artifacts, minutae and ephemera, but a flat experience nevertheless.

Bolen explores various sites, themselves charged with scientific research and meaning, such as the site of the Large Hadron Collider, by using various self-made camera apparatuses, and exposing film to earth, night sky, dew, etc from those sites. The exposed film is then used to create images, which are juxtaposed in CERN with photos of the site in question along with grass clippings, dirt and dust from the site. The pieces read as: photos of places on colored backgrounds with dust and dirt surrounding them.

We enjoy a scrapbook not because we inherently love looking at locks of hair, or coins glued to pages, or bad photos of our friends, but because of the memories those collages bring back into our consciousness. But because I have no real firsthand experience of Bolen’s research process—I have not seen the apparatus he works with, I have not been to these sites myself—I am left not with a different experience of place, or a different understanding of scientific processes and methodologies, but a nostalgic longing for an experience I’ve never had.

The photos are well-composed but uninviting: the dirt and ephemera vary in their composition, and in some cases settle at the bottom of the frame, as if thrown and forgotten: the images produced from negatives are all various shades of delicious green but become a background palette for a framed image which becomes again: scrapbook. I wish, for instance, I could feel the dirt as it was burying negatives: but the green shades tell me nothing as to whether the dirt was cool or warm to the touch.

So Bolen’s work offers me up not a key for interpreting his own form of data, not a translation of his own experience of the site, but something else entirely. I am looking at the scrapbook of a stranger from another planet. There is no common point of reference—I cannot identify with images of people, or wonder at fashions, or gaze at flora and fauna different from what is familiar in my hometown. I am faced with a collection of an experience I cannot relate to.

In short, in his attempt to complete the space ‘between the real and the simulated’, Bolen’s work lands far away from the real. Rather than create a new interpretation of data collection an research process, CERN manages to distance us from the sites under examination—the cold distance of scientific research without the reassuring discovery of collectively useful information or memory.