Eric G. Nord
The New Patriot, is arguably Jared David Paul Anderson’s most ambitious and courageous art exhibition to date. Investigating the loaded question of what it means to be a patriotic American in our modern society, with its highly bipartisan climate, he has succeeded in offering a series of iconic images that transcend politics and party affiliation, reminding the viewer that our country’s uniqueness is born from the diversity of our individual circumstances realized within our shared cultural experiences. While Anderson’s previous work has centered largely on artistic process and action painting, his new work incorporates rich story telling, personal history, and conceptual elements, which add humor, irony, and pointed (though never strident) criticisms, creating an exciting exhibition that is controversial, provocative, and ultimately, deeply rewarding on multiple levels.
Upon entering, visitors to the gallery are confronted by, and make eye contact with, an enormous taxidermy buffalo head. Combined with a corresponding buffalo skull hung directly across from it, they create a threshold through which the visitor must pass in order to enter the main gallery space. Death of an American Martyr, defines the exhibition space both physically and metaphorically. By using the iconic image of the buffalo (an animal that Anderson’s father harvested in South Dakota and subsequently fed his family) the artist creates a “sacred space” in which visitors are asked to confront their personal understanding of mortality, while exploring issues surrounding patriotism and our country’s obsession with the cult of celebrity. The skull, which, in reality, is the skull from the very same buffalo, glares directly at its former self, while the buffalo head averts its gaze, unable to confront the reality of its own demise. For me, this is the artist’s criticism of our contemporary American culture, and our unwillingness to face the issues which threaten the wellbeing of our society. Installed on the wall beneath the buffalo head are a series of “bones”, made from fragments of tree branches, painted with white, black, and gold, representing the skeleton of the animal, and further emphasizing the sacred by invoking a burial site.
Once inside, viewers are treated to a series of three exceptional prints, All Too Human #1, #2, & #3, which utilize gold, white, and blue pigment powder on handmade paper. In the prints, Anderson has employed a simplified graphic representation of the American flag, composed in a “golden ratio” or “golden rectangle” spiral of decreasing sizes. The golden rectangle is an aesthetic and mathematic ideal, expressing the infinite reiteration of the original aspect ratio. So, no matter how small the image may become, it repeats the same ratio of height to width. Each frame contains a significant amount of pigment powder which appears to have fallen from the printed surface and collected at the bottom. For me, this brings to my mind that ever-popular jingoistic cliché, “these colors don’t run,” yet implies that despite the deep sentiment inherent in individuals who wrap themselves in the flag, there is still a certain amount of debris, or detritus, which results from our egregious and often misdirected use of its symbolism. Worth noting is the artist’s omission of the color red, replacing it instead with gold. I find this to be a provocative suggestion that what once represented our blood, our passion and willingness to sacrifice for our ideals, has now been replaced by materiality, through our greed and capitalist obsession with perpetual profit.
Inhabiting the center of the gallery is a three dimensional sculpture that bears the same title as the overall exhibition, The New Patriot. The sculpture is another rectangular form, constructed of various pieces of found lumber. Anderson has arranged the work so that the viewer first encounters a side which is burnt and charred black. They also experience the pungent fragrance of fire. As they move around the piece, they are able to view the opposite side, which is white-washed, with a very subtle application of blue and red pigment powder that invokes the flag symbol once again. The work provokes two antithetical, but equally important possibilities in my mind. First, the act of protest by burning the American flag, and Second, the concept of a new flag emerging from the ashes and charred remains of a previous incarnation of the flag.
Another small gem within the exhibition, often missed by visitors because of its location to the side of the gallery entrance, is a video installation titled, “Iowa.” The work is a looping video, comprised of short clips appropriated from several movies including, Boyz In The Hood, and The Bridges Of Madison County. The clips feature the actors, Ice Cube, Lawrence Fishburn, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Clint Eastwood, respectively, making statements in which the iconic middle-America state is named. Anderson is creating a clever and nuanced juxtaposition, by highlighting the word, but referenced in two very different contexts. It invokes the racial struggles we continue to encounter in our culture, by not only emphasizing the differences between white and black, but also the divide between the inner city and the wide expanses of the Great Plains.
Throughout the exhibition, Anderson employs a variety of iconic American themes, among them, the buffalo, the flag, the actor James Dean, the movie Easy Rider, the stories of writer Jack London, boxing, and the Apollo space program. In his artist’s statement, he suggests that “we are who we were,” reiterating that message in the work by referencing his personal ancestry as well as our collective memories. Though he challenges our perception of the idea of patriotism, his ideas are expressed in a voice that is clearly constructive and positive, even when tinged with an element of “tough love.”
In Search of America
Eric R. Dallimore
America is undoubtedly in an interesting time right now. We all have something to say about the woes we are facing as a nation: from the debt crisis, to politics, religion, wars, environmentalism, and so on and on and on. One would think that a show titled The New Patriot would be a vast complaint presented through art on the angst that is stirring in the red, white, and blue pot. These however are not the concerns of Jared David Paul Anderson. In his second show at Leon, Jared has asked us to take a step back for a moment, and go deeper into our own personal lives than these political tensions to explore a wilder, more rustic view of what it means to be a new patriot.
The central theme of this exhibition is an offering from Jared’s personal narrative of how to be a new patriot, but Jared also uses this exhibition to point out the ways we have not been patriotic. So is the case with the first piece at the front of the gallery, viewable from 17th Avenue. “Dump Koch” is about Mayor Ed Koch of New York City who was a lifelong Democrat who described himself as a “liberal with sanity”. Jared’s piece however points out one of his more insane ideas; to release wolves in the subways of New York City in order to curb graffiti. Graffiti writers across the city began spray painting the words “Dump Koch” all over the subways in response to his ludicrous plan. Jared transforms the entrance of the gallery into a small scene depicting a five legged wolf lurking behind barb wire and bricks with the tag “Dump Koch” spray painted on canvas in an 80’s graffiti style. The body of the wolf has been painted on a canvas, but his head comes to life in the form of a taxidermy coyote that Jared’s own father shot.
One of my personal favorites in the show is “The Boss” a collaborative piece created from Stephen Daniel Karpik’s boxing glove painted white with the words “The Boss” written on it. Every person needs to be able to stand tall and know that they are their own boss and sometimes you may need to dawn a boxing glove to let other people know it too. I also believe that the words could refer to art being the boss. The height of the boxing glove sitting on top of a pine tree trunk, which has been painted white to match the glove, gives off an air or regalness and triumph. It also suggests to me the meteoric rise in his career that Jared is experiencing right now. Jared has produced a lot of work this year and I don’t see any evidence of him slowing down. “The Boss” stands in front of a photograph of an Apollo space shuttle taking off, which also adds to the feeling of forward and upward momentum. The significance of this awkward curation (the photograph is partially blocked by the sculpture and viewers are forced to peer around the sculpture to fully see the photograph) is to create an emotional direct link from Jared’s passion as an artist to his father’s passion as an engineer and scientist who helped to build the engines on several of the Apollo missions. Jared references his father a lot in this show, there is a beautiful narrative throughout several pieces that translate to the importance of family. I would have to agree with Jared that family is important and it truly is touching to see Jared’s tributes to his own father, who passed away suddenly a few years ago and it seems that in way, this show is a dedication to his pops and the man that Jared has become because of his father’s teachings.
Jared has made another elegant sculpture piece, which is a new medium for this artist, made from manufactured 2x4 lumbers. The physicality of this piece creates a lumbering flag, one that is stoic and has a weighted bulk to it, carrying a lot of secrets and regrets. Inside all of that bulk lies all of the past troubles of America and the future potential of what America can be. To represent this, one side of the sculpture is scorched, burned down several inches into the sculpture, proving that Jared is ready to burn deep into America’s thick skin to purify it’s beautiful core. The other side of the sculpture is painted white with blue pigment exploding in a burst of stars like a big bang birthing a new universe. There are faint hints of the red revealing itself between the layers of 2x4’s, as if this moment of rebirth is just happening and it will take us some time to truly radiate with our rich USA red colors again. It now seems that our once bold colors have faded due to disastrous foreign and national policies, but these colors will shine bright again with a cleansing. This new phase of patriotism will need some time to prove itself, mature, and move beyond the terrible mistakes of our past.
Jared has always worked with handmade tools, ancient inks, and traditional mediums, so for his first film, it is no surprise that Jared turned to using Super 8mm film. Jared has created an installation of 9 old televisions showing flash moments from a film he shot this past winter with John Hennan, based on Jack London’s short story, To Build a Fire. Jared’s film is the culmination of all of the separate statements held within The New Patriot exhibition. This story is about a stubborn man who despite the warnings from an old man, decides that he will walk 9 hours in negative artic temperatures to get to another campfire to eat meat with his friends. Along this journey, the man is full of several mistakes which will prevent him from making it to his goal. It is the man’s mistakes in the short story that Jared points out to paralleling our current mistakes as faltering patriots. Through this film, Jared begs us to return to nature to understand bliss again, but we will need to have perseverance and imagination to do so. Jared’s acting in this film is emotional and natural, perhaps it is because Jared was raised here in Colorado and like a true Colorado mountain man, is most at home in nature. Perhaps it is because Jared truly does believe that we have become wimps in our society and we need to return to nature to remember how to survive, to fight, and to build a fire again. It is a journey that requires us to have friends and companions along the way if we are to succeed; it is foolish to go out on this new journey alone. Jared’s costar in this film is his very own, majestic, pure white, half wolf half dog, Malachi. There is a beautiful relationship full of kindred love between this dog and his owner, but given that Malachi is wilder than he is tame, he comes across as perfectly at home in the waste deep snow that they are trotting through. These two characters perfectly play the role of civility and primitive, Jared’s two favorite themes. Through his portrayal, I sometimes don’t know who is more wild, the half wolf-half dog or Jared?
There are several interactive art pieces in this show, pieces which allow us to deal with our feeling about America in two separate ways. In the back of the gallery, Jared has offered an altar for us to pray at for our future and to beg forgiveness for our past. Visitors are invited to light a candle for their lost brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, and a place to place a coin or an apple, in offering to the wild gods that our course be set straight, that our prayers be answered, and mercy be placed upon our souls. Several photos of Indian warriors have been painted on and placed at the altar, referring to a time in our history for which we should hold no pride for our ancestor’s treatment of Native Americans. Several other artifacts adorn the piano turned altar, from Mexican figurines (in response to our current mistakes on immigration), leather collars representing oppression, photographs of Billy’s motorcycle crashed on the ground from Easy Rider, as well as old Fanta and Pepsi cans, dented and rusting, as if they were unearthed from Jared’s grandfathers land. Perhaps the most peculiar piece on the piano is a pure magnesium ball the size of a softball that has been painted gold with a number of ‘googly-eys’ attached to it and a mouth. This odd little creature that came from the ocean floor seems to be the temple spirit, the one who will float around and hear your prayers and grant your wishes. It also adds an air of playfulness to this installation, which is helpful to break up the solemn spirit of the piece. Overall, this shrine is an honest lament for the past and is a beautiful testament to Jared’s prayers that this country be healed.
Sometimes you need an outlet besides prayers and forgiveness, sometimes this country makes us so mad that we just want to punch something. Jared’s second interactive piece hangs from the ceiling of Leon and is a bronze sheet, covered in a patina representing a series of flags in the “golden ratio” (also present in the All Too Human paintings) and a pair of boxing gloves with an “X” on the left glove and an “O” on the other. This flag is your punching ground for taking out all of your woes and anger you have with Little Miss America. The piece roars and crashes like a symbol when punched, as if America herself is crying and moaning at you for taking out your anger on her…but she deserves it. She made you pay too many taxes (bam), she doesn’t support education enough (boom), she is a greedy and has spent over $1.57 trillion on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (smack!), she is an oil hungry lady who respects corporations more than she does her own citizens (pow!). These are actually words overheard this month when patrons stepped into the gallery, several of whom dented the sheet of bronze and one feisty soul who knocked the piece off the wall. Look out lady liberty; you’re losing friends left and right.
Jared David Paul Anderson is truly in a moment of brilliance in his art right now. He is exploring new themes in his work that seem to be coming from the deepest part of his spirit. His work is honest, courageous, bold, and becoming more mature and refined. Jared proves that he really is a patriot; he cares about this country more than most. To represent his truest thoughts Jared is exploring new mediums and breaking free from his comfort zone of sumi ink paintings. This show makes me want to pray to the little gold covered magnesium god, that he will allow me to jump forward a few years to see what else Jared will create and have to say in his art. I don’t think that I can wait for his next art show to see what he will create next.