Friday, April 13, 2007

Suggsomania Saturday Night!

Don Suggs: One Man Group Show
A survey exhibition spanning 35 years of the work of Los Angeles-based artist Don Suggs co-curated by Doug Harvey, Artist and Art Critic for the LA Weekly, and Meg Linton, Director of the Ben Maltz Gallery.
Exhibition Dates: April 14 – June 23, 2007
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 14, 5-7pm. Free and open to the public.

The first of several curatorial chickens is coming home to roost tomorrow. Even if you think you're familiar with the work of Don Suggs, I can guarantee you'll encounter at least one body of work (if not half a dozen) that you haven't seen. Above and below are examples from one of my favorite discoveries during the curatorial process -- a remarkable series of altered found images from the early 70s. Apologies for the photo quality -- my bad. From my catalog essay:

"The early painting Lady (1975) prefigures how Suggs -- on his own terms -- would later allow geometry to resurface as a tool of semiotic interference. But the most exhaustive roadmap of these future concerns was laid out in his Decodes, a little-seen but remarkable group of small, playful collagey interventions. Also known as “Paint Ons”, the Decodes overlay an extensive array of found and appropriated imagery – often from magazines or other commercial reproductions such as postcards – with various painted configurations of the nine geometric forms*. The Decodes prefigure much of Suggs’ later work involving obscured vistas -- as well as the signature found-image obliterations by John Baldessari which they predate by a decade. These small works set the template for Suggs’ multivalent use of ideal geometric forms superimposed on (or otherwise conflated with) stock pictorial representations: they interrupt the trompe l’oeil conspiracy between the viewer and the ground image while delivering a formal structural translation of the picture’s mechanism – simultaneously destabilizing and reinforcing the image; diluting its authority while corroborating its essential authenticity as a picture.

While this is a potent formula, easily (and elsewhere) mined for an entire career, Suggs adds extra layers of playful consonance by incorporating aspects of the source material’s narrative content – often simply through his choice of imagery, as in “Ike,” a rectilinear reduction of General Eisenhower delivering a perfect 45˚’ salute – I mean like, how square can you get? Other examples undermine the order of symbolic codes by looping them back on themselves, as in "Premier Alambic w/ Monk Chartreuse", which superimposes (among other geometric figures) a vessel-shaped silhouette in the titular hue – obviously a jug of the very yellow-green liqueur presumably being distilled in the underlying image. This sort of punning subversion of the platonic idealism of the geometric overlays throws a monkeywrench into the implied dualism of the pictorial/abstract pairings and keeps the viewer on his or her toes. The visual clarity, sweetness, and wit of these works rival the best “Grafis Annual 76” had to offer (which is saying a lot) and suggest that Suggs, in the best Modern tradition, has one foot (and a phantom potential career) in graphic design."

* "the 9 underlying geometric forms of nature (the circle, cross, triangle, square, teardrop, spiral, mandorla, wave, and spire)"


sroden said...

yes, that little case with all these little modified paper images blew my mind and was probably my favorite discovery in the show, and yes, there were one of a number of entire bodies of work that i'd never seen before. doesn't ike look like he's in kraftwerk in that top one...

DougH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DougH said...

Ha! Totally! The Man Machine VS The Military-Industrial Complex!