In our last thematic show, Observing Observing (a white cup), the content (a white cup) was essentially emotionally neutral, devoid of psychological associations. The success of a given work depended upon the artist’s creative abilities at observation to give the work meaning beyond description.
In Things That Kill, because of all the psychological associations, the content is the polar opposite of the “white cup.” It is this red button content that is challenging. For an artist the difficulty comes in the handling of such content in a manner that the subject matter does not get “front loaded” and subjugate the artwork. “Front loading”* must be resisted by all means—artists necessarily need to keep in mind that subject matter is at the service of the artwork; the artwork is not at the service of the subject matter (unless you’re doing propaganda).
There is another approach to the subject matter problem that an artist might choose for this exhibition, and that is working with content, which in itself may be innocuous and passive, but in this context is psychologically and emotionally loaded. Consider, for example, such varied assassins as leaded water, pills, red meat, too much sun…. in fact, too much of anything can kill. Consider, for a moment more, that of the many things that kill, countless are appealing, beautiful and fatal, seducing artist as well as viewer. How to handle these “killers” in such a way that the intended expressive implications are conveyed, is as formidable an artistic challenge as engaging the more overt content implied by the show’s title.
Titles, for exhibitions, are like sign posts: they aim you toward an intended destination, but to get there, you still must walk the distance on your own. So, view this show with a certain perspective. To wit, that while the artists in this exhibition approach the theme in various ways, they essentially adhere to the intent implied by the title. - Norman Lundin
*“Front loading”: a term describing a work of art that depends principally upon emotions triggered by content for its realization.
Artists: Fred Birchman, Brian Blackham, Marsha Burns, Joe Crookes, John Fadeff, Ellen Garvens, Jim Holl, Michael Howard, Amy Huddleston, Caroline Kapp, Dianne Kornberg, Riva Lehrer, Brian Murphy, Elizabeth Ockwell, Anne Petty, Glenn Rudolph, Graham Shutt, Kathy Vargas and Evelyn Woods