Relativity

June 17-August 6, 2005
Curated by Amy Hauft

Jeannine Harkleroad | Chris Norris | SunTek Chung | James Davis

RELATIVITY highlights four original and complex emerging artists residing in Richmond, VA. All four of the featured artists earned their undergraduate degrees in Sculpture at VCU: SunTek Chung, James Davis, Jeannine Harkleroad and Chris Norris. All four went on to equally prominent graduate programs in sculpture: Yale, Ohio State, UCLA, and Tyler, respectively. In 2005, all four were back in Richmond teaching for VCU.

Guest curator and sculptor, Amy Hauft, was Chair of the Department of Sculpture + Extended Media. Her usual role in a gallery setting is on the other side of the curatorial divide, but for this exhibition she has created four curious equations. After visiting the studios of the four artists, Hauft culled the permanent collection of the Anderson Gallery for works that would act as instigators for each artist. She selected artworks that highlight unexpected relationships between the historical and the contemporary in each of the artists’ projects.  In some cases, the young artist’s work already existed and Hauft chose artworks from the collection to rhyme or talk back to the younger artist’s work – as in the case with SunTek Chung. In other instances, she selected work from the collection to which the younger artist responded – as in the case of Jeannine Harkleroad. Hauft takes an artist’s – rather than curator’s – prerogative in her eccentric presentation of the historical work in relation to the new projects.

Chris Norris’ twelve ferocious ink and acrylic drawings surround a disheveled display of drawings atop an Empire-style table with carved clawed feet – reminiscent of the crazy detail in his drawings. His cartoony-patterned-art historical fantasies demonstrate his prodigious concentration and rampant imagination. In the middle of the room, the Empire table displays a disheveled group of drawings by the hand of various luminaries in contemporary art: prints by the insanely fluid and fluent artists, Dieter Roth and George Grosz are interspersed with a print by the mysterious, revered Phillip Guston.  Sprinkled across the top of all the drawings are Post-It Note doodles by artistic bon vivant, David Hockney.

SunTek Chung’s large-scale photograph of a politically charged tableau faces off with two Thomas A Daniel portraits and a pair of exquisite Chinese tea tables. The Chung photograph depicts an elaborately constructed set in which the artist himself inhabits the persona of a man sitting in front of his shotgun shack, dazed by beer and circumstance. Upon second look, the proudly displayed flag is a conflation of the Korean and Confederate flags. The work’s title, The South, The South, directs us to think about South Korea AND the American South. This scene faces a Daniel portrait from his series, Daughters of the Confederacy. The elderly wife of a Confederate soldier sits in front of her own porch, hefting her husband’s sword.  Her portrait (along with the sword) literally bridge the gap between the two Chinese tea tables.

Jeannine Harkleroad’s kitschy mechanical madhouse of an installation is the scene of a performance and its aftermath. A chicken directs the action, starting and stopping the race in which Harkleroad’s character is doomed to always lose, crashing her house into the house of the winning player. The goal post at the end of the field of play is forever just out of range of these performing contenders.  In the corner and off to the side of Harkleroad’s brute aesthetic is a green rubber puddle in the middle of which stand two innocently perverse paintings by outsider artist, Mose Tolliver, and a sprightly terra cotta horse from the Tang Dynasty. The play action between the characters in the Tolliver paintings and the horse reiterate the playfulness of Harkleroad’s mise en scène.

And James Davis’ set of three headache-inducing, obsessively detailed abstractions comprised of industrial materials surround a trio of Jules Olitski’s iridescent serigraphs from the 1970’s. Davis’ work builds off of a pop-abstraction aesthetic, but organizes the material itself (hot glue, Masonite) to manifest that abstraction. Olitski uses traditional art materials to create his imagery. The Olitski’s are presented at eye level and at an oblique angle to the viewer, so as to highlight the iridescent color across the surfaces. Both artists share a delight and predilection for the power of color.

It’s all relative….