Blurring the Boundaries of Modern Art

804

Weeks away from wrapping up their time at UC Santa Cruz, fourth-year students and artists Dawson Timpany and Nicholas Correia succeeded in making the most of their final quarter with their conceptual art show “Accept The Miracle: House of the False Art.”

“We were doing art together and knew we wanted to do a show,” Timpany said. “We knew we wanted to conceptualize something cohesive that took elements from the background of art and context of art and put it in a new light.”

The exhibit, which ran May 2-7 in the Sesnon Underground Gallery at Porter, was the culmination of a year’s worth of work. As housemates, the pair of artists spent the past year working on smaller projects with the idea of doing a joint art show in mind — it was just a matter of fleshing out the concept.

The show features a mix of paintings, installations and sculptures assembled from objects found around the city, all shown with the intention of critiquing the state of contemporary art and the way art has become a substitute for religion for some. In their artist statement, the pair invite exhibit attendees to join them in laughing at the sorry state of modern art.

“[The use of ‘sorry’ is] a reference to the fact that modern art is derided in the media as being something that is trivial or made by people who aren’t as skilled or smart or talented as the people who came before them,” Correia said. “The way in which everyone looks at art now is a joke. It’s not serious but at the same time people take it [the critique] very seriously.”

The pair drew from the works and ideologies of famous conceptual artists like Mark Rothko and Marcel Duchamp.

“We want people to understand that art isn’t functioning by itself,” Timpany said. “It is coming from a lineage of art that has come before it but we were trying to do something new.”

The work balanced academically dense concepts like the fetishization of violence and consumption with striking visual images. Visuality, as both Timapany and Correira agreed, has been absent from art for some time. Modern art places a stronger emphasis on the concepts behind the art rather than its visual component. However, the pair made a conscious effort to create visually intriguing work that would avoid alienating those who may not possess the background knowledge to immediately grasp conceptual art.

The pair also turned a critical eye to the interplay between religion and art, especially toward those who see art as a substitute for religious divinity. This element was most clearly reflected in the piece “Untitled (Orb).” Comprised of old televisions playing white noise, prayer candles and a triptych (a work of art divided into three sections), the installation formed an altar. At the top stood a bronze colored mannequin with an illuminated orb for a head.

Prior to its inclusion in the show, the mannequin served as a figure with an almost menacing presence in their home. Placed on top of their entertainment center, the figure became a sort of mascot for the house, staring down at them while watching television.

“It forced us to reflect on the fact that we were consuming entertainment every time we were consuming entertainment,” Correia said.

Timpany likened the feeling to the guilt the religious might feel when engaging in an act they deem sinful. That sentiment made the “Untitled (Orb)” the ideal endpoint to their show, as it is a prominent marker encapsulating the theme of ritualized consumption which runs throughout the show.

“Now seemed like the moment I was confident enough … to put together something we could present to people and really back it up and have it mean something,” Timpany said. “Hopefully it’s moving, interesting or powerful to someone.”