"Local" has gained cultural currency when it comes to food. T-shirt slogans remind us to shop the farmers market and support small businesses. Much like the philosophies espoused by Grant Wood and his artistic comrades in the 1930s, the local food movement looks to nearby sources for sustenance and inspiration. In the case of "Regionalist" artists (Grant Wood, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry et. al.), this meant focusing on idiosyncratic subject matter found in everyday life in the small towns and rural areas of America's heartland. We grew up in rural Wisconsin and local was a derogatory term. "Local yokel" was used even by small town people when referring to rural indigenous people in the outlying areas. Local meant provincial and isolated. Rural folk were stereotyped as naive hicks on TV (Gomer Pyle, Eb Dawson, John Boy Walton et. al.). Today we wonder if it is possible to be an isolated hayseed? People in remote areas read the same Twitter feed as their urban counterparts and everyone near and far stares continually at the screen. Seeking affordable work space, some artists are opting for the remote and the low rent (living in caves, yurts, and one-room cabins) while staying connected with the "art world" online or via frequent residencies. Artists live as a radicants, never sinking roots while engaging in exchanges and constant movement. From New York to Hong Kong, urbanity gives artists audience and financial support. Galleries have taken to cultural colonization with the most extreme example being the Gagosian Gallery franchising to London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Geneva and the Guggenheim Museum with its continued expansions to Abu Dhabi, Berlin, Bilbao, and Las Vegas. It is within this context that we conceived of our exhibition "We Go From Where We Know" examining our native Wisconsin. Free to leave this frigid northern place on the 44th parallel, we chose to stay and look more closely. Our resulting research-driven installation at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (October 13, 2013-February 23, 2014) contains works made of concrete, Wisconsin's medium of choice based on the numerous artist environments scattered about the state. Our concrete sculptures are surrounded by life-size portrait photographs, cyanotype/tar paintings, watercolors, postcards views, and found Wisconsin-oriented objects. We post our findings online not as an act of boosterism, but in an attempt to convey a Gothic mental space complicated by the toothy smile of the postcard perfect.
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Wisconsin Art, Racine Art Museum, Rahr-West Art Museum, and the Wisconsin Historical Museum) in addition to the Kohler Arts Center. We wonder whether our work examining idiosyncratic place can resonate outside of the place? Can our findings open dialogs and exchanges with other under represented places? Portrait Society Gallery (MKE) also brought work from our "Decay Utopia Decay" series to Art Basel Miami Beach to the Aqua satellite fair where its rurality was surrounded by the glamor and clamor of the international art world. We have worked steadily to make a record of our time while making it accessible. We put it out there and time and fate will determine what happens next.
|Portrait Society Gallery (MKE)|
Aqua Art Fair installation at Art Basel Miami Beach
J. Shimon & J. Lindemann "Decay Utopia Decay" series cyanotype
displayed on back wall, December 4-8, 2013