“Missouri Parallels” is my second solo exhibition with Galleri Oxholm in Copenhagen. The exhibition presents recent paintings resulting from a year-long period of studio experimentation in 2016/17. Layers of paint are stripped away as they’re built up. The act of digging, picking, and erasing is important formally as well as conceptually. I think of the canvases as operating tables and excavation sites. Much of the process is outside of my control, which offers an opportunity to be confronted with a presence that can’t be easily summed up or explained.
There are two kinds of paintings here.
The first are landscapes referenced mainly from my own photographs and experiences during research trips along the Missouri River, beginning in Missouri and ending in South Dakota. My research began with an interest in the Missouri for its significance as an early 19th-century westward water route. What I discovered in the process has only now begun to reveal itself in my work.
My first trip occurred before the presidential election; the second trip, after. I specifically looked at sites imbricated with many layers of history. Remnants of slavery, past and present indigenous cultures, Industrial-Revolution-era manufacturing and agriculture, ghost towns, as well as wildlife, farms, nature preserves, and education sites appear and recede along the way. The paintings depict multiple periods of time within one space. Unexpected forms are revealed with the removal of the top layers of paint. For me, these forms call into question the notion of progress within linear time. Time itself, then, becomes a subject in the work.
The second type of painting is figurative work responding directly to the original black-and-white silent film “The Birth of a Nation” by D.W. Griffith. “The Birth of a Nation” was a silent film which cast the Ku Klux Klan as its central heroes. After its release in 1915, this propaganda film, groundbreaking in its day, was used to recruit new members into the KKK. The work responds to certain scenes in a way that uses white supremacist imagery against itself. What I hope to reveal is a nostalgic romance that white American history has with itself, in its tendency to render its story falsely just and sympathetic, and, in so doing, ironically reveals its own shame. It is in this contradiction that I seek to invent new poetics of inherited shame and redemptive need.