Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz
September 30 – October 28, 2016
Reception: Friday, September 30 | 6 – 8 p.m. Gallery talk at 6:30 p.m.
(Gallery closed October 8-11)
Ryan M Pfeiffer + Rebecca Walz are collaborators that live and work in Chicago. Drawing from their research into prehistoric and ancient art, historical erotica and archeo-anthropology, their works synthesize concerns about sex, death, myth and transformation. While utilizing strategies of reproduction, sourcing and bibliographing, the resulting pictures veer between silent hieroglyphic frieze and dense depictions of orgiastic revelry. Working on the drawings simultaneously, they view the act of collaboration as a dissolution of their individual identities.
Presented is a selection of collaborative drawings from an ongoing series entitled ‘Rebis Rebus’. Within this work we investigate the mythological, art historical and interpersonal dimensions of the gaze, gender and transformation – evinced in the multiple subjects of Marcel Duchamp’s Étant donnés, the androgynous Rebis and Paleolithic artworks. Placing these and numerous other cultural materials in relation to one another – which we literally do within our alternately rough and delicate line drawings – reveal resonant connections: flesh unveiled, sacred space and desire’s consequences.
The foundation of our collaborative research begins with the anthropological study of Paleolithic/ancient art, the deconstruction of mythological narrative with the integration of historical eroticism. Our engagement with the histories and ideations of drawing also allow us to maneuver between polymorphic formal structures while constructing our syncretic assessments. The basis for our system of quotation is to enact a revisitation of the source’s own history while jointly modifying its interpreted conventions.
Utilizing strategies of reproduction, sourcing and bibliographing as way to stage the collaborative research, our layered compositions become records wherein our investigations concerning art history, alchemy and erotica are performed as drawing. We see the collaboration as a dissolution of our separate identities into a new “third mind”. Only working on the drawings simultaneously, arms crisscrossing the sheets of paper with graphite, charcoal and other drafting tools, marks become impossible to assign any single collaborator. The resulting pictures veer between silent hieroglyphic frieze and dense depictions of orgiastic revelry, as well as faithfulness and irreverence in relation to our extensive archive of source material.
Ben Shahn (1898-1969)
Frederick Douglas, IV, 1965
Lithograph, 59 x 46 cm.
Collection of Hobart and William Smith Colleges
© Estate of Ben Shahn/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
Shahn here portrayed Douglass, the elder statesman, fully bearded according to the custom of his day and with the same strong eyes as before; but the hunched shoulders, the detail of the mouth, the slightly receding hair, and the loose collar suggest a man of advancing years. Again, the raw umber title is centered above the portrait. Frederick Douglass, a former slave and eminent human rights leader in the abolition movement, was the first black citizen to hold a high U.S. government rank.
Ben Shahn was born in Kaunus, Lithuania in 1898. He emigrated to New York with his family in 1906. He became a lithographer’s apprentice after completing his schooling. He later attended both New York University and the National Academy of Design from 1917 to 1921. In the 1920s Shahn became part of the social realism movement. Social Realism is a term used to describe the works of American artists during the Depression era who were devoted to depicting the social troubles of the suffering urban lower class: urban decay, labor strikes, and poverty. His early work was concerned with political issues of the time, while his later work portrayed the loneliness of the city dweller. Text and lettering formed an integral part of his designs and his work was often inspired by news reports. After working in lithography until 1930, his style crystallized in a series of 23 paintings concerning the Sacco-Vanzetti trial. Shahn came to prominence in the 1930s as with “The Passion of Sacco and Vanzetti”. Shahn dealt consistently with social and political themes. He developed a strong and brilliant sense of graphic design revealed in numerous posters. His painting Vacant Lot (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.) exhibits a poetic realism, whereas his more abstract works are characterized by terse, incisive lines and a lyric intensity of color. The Blind Botanist (Wichita Art Mus.) is characteristic of his abstractions. Shahn’s murals include series for the Bronx Central Annex Post Office, New York City. From 1933 to 1938 he worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration, producing masterful images of impoverished rural areas and their inhabitants. Shahn used photographs throughout his career for both composition and content. The photographer position at the FSA was a dream job for Shahn because it provided him the opportunity to travel though Depression-era America taking pictures. He later used those photographs for his paintings years later. Critics in his time felt that using photographs for paintings diminished the value of a painting. However, Shahn’s work became the most popular artist of his age. His work was on the cover of Time and well as the Museum of Modern Art. Shahn has been described as a man of uncompromising beliefs and an artist who spoke to the world. Shahn continuously adopted new themes and mediums to define the human condition of his time. Active until the end of his career, Shahn was also a distinguished lecturer, teacher, and writer.