I more often then not am only thinking about the next work that I will produce. The truth is I had forgotten about most of the work that will be showing in “Collection”. If a piece from a show does not sell it might be put into a group show or two but it will spend most of its days in storage. So the old “out of sight out of mind” really comes into play here. There are a few pieces in the show that over the years have become signature pieces for me, representing both my artwork and the edge of my commercial photography. Seeing those large photos hanging next to some of my early adventures in painting and mixed media pieces as well as a few of my new works really brings a smile to my face.
It is interesting to see where the transitions are in a full body of work. They seem to come not only with growth of technique but for myself they have come in a not so subtle changing of voice. My earlier work centered on the aesthetic of the image and pertained to personal vision; it was more inward. Now the work that I am creating has more of an outgoing message if you will. I find that the political polarization of our country and the movements set in motion by our peers as well as the rising head of the oppressed and demoralized people in our country has become concentrated in my newer work. Which leads me to ask the question of my fellow artists ”Where has your civil disobedience gone?”
I have been to a decent amount of gallery shows this last year and have been amazed that there is very little in the way of political or social art being shown. There seems to be a lack of opinion, and the majority of the work I have been witness to is self involved and rehashed ideas. That might sound a little harsh, and it probably is. That last statement is not meant to say that the art in Los Angeles is bad, on the contrary, some of it is very good! In style, technique and talent a lot of the work excels.
A few years ago it seemed that the idea of promoting your inner self through adaptations of your imagination seemed to be the art world standard. Why wouldn’t it be? In a commercial world designed to elevate the self importance of the individual above the group through social networking, reality shows, and constant erotic massage of the ego…hell yes what we think is important. And all of the little characters that we can create (that look nothing like anything that other artists are doing) are important and make us fucking special. But this is now. This is after the recession, bank collapsing, bailouts, gay marriage, contraception backlash, abortion rights, blah blah blah…you get the idea.
The idea of the individual is a very important one. It is an idea that we as artists must always hold close and protect. But as individuals we need to push ourselves to speak for those who have no means of expression. We need to stop relying on Banksy and Fairey to wave the flags of rebellion and revolution.
I am not saying that we as creative’s need to stop exploring inward or that we need to stop creating commercially viable work. What I am saying is that we need to reflect on our roles in society and think more about the message that we are choosing to communicate with our work. As a lover of art I would really enjoy seeing more work that challenges my views and expands my perception of our society. I therefore challenge myself to find a way to express ideas and themes that have more social implications or a visualization of key political or civil issues. I challenge you to do the same.
Perhaps earlier work is made to help find that voice. Maybe it is there to be the education of technique so that as artists we can concentrate on message and the creative process while the heavy lifting of the actual creation has become second nature and needs less forward attention. Perhaps the reflection on ones work, such as the feelings that I have had over these past few days, will help lead to an exploration of deeper and more challenging subjects. We need to challenge ourselves in order to grow, both as artists and as people. Through expression based on the voice of the oppressed, the forgotten, the downtrodden and disheartened we gain insight into our fellow man making our growth as individuals inevitable.
W.B. Fontenot is a North Hollywood based artist
His new show at The Groundfloor Gallery located at 433 S. Spring St, Los Angeles, Ca. 90013 opens March 8th 2012 for the Downtown Artwalk