Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tony Fitzpatrick's "Big Rock Candy Mountain"

Tony Fitzpatrick
"The Orange Beast"
Drawing and collage
10.5 x 7.5 inches

The Chicago-based artist and poet Tony Fitzpatrick participated in Dieu Donne Papermill's 2006 Lab Grant Residency. "Big Rock Candy Mountain," an outstanding exhibition of the collages Fitzpatrick produced during his Lab Grant term, is currently on display in Dieu Donne's exhibition space.

Fitzpatrick's collages incorporate text, print advertisements, handmade paper and drawings. In medium and manner, Fitzpatrick's collages are more coarse relatives of Fred Tomaselli's beautiful resin works. Tomaselli's pictures are dominated by images from nature and evoke the rarified realm of etherial contemplation and transcendental yearning. Although Fitzpatrick's pictures are similarly sacramental, his iconography is wide-ranging and kitsch, drawing principally from post-war suburban and urban culture. His works are as informed by the American taste for consumer ephemera as they are by Calvinist, fire-and-brimstone theology and old-fashioned hard luck. If Tomaselli's works are the ecstatic offerings of a universalistic mystic, Fitzpatrick's are the esoteric assemblages of a struggling hermit poet; his striking collages might be pulled from a latter-day illuminated manuscript.

Tony Fitzpatrick
"The Red Road"
Drawing and collage
7.5 x 10.5 inches

Like his imagery, the poetic texts that Fitzpatrick pastes into his collages speak to complex, even contradictory impulses. They are at once banging proclamations and maudlin laments. Consider the text from "Coal City Cock Fighter."
"It is the cock, hobbled and bled to black ash, walking dizzy narcotic, circles among dead birds and cigarette butts. He looks in the Devil's eyes and is homicidally radiant."
The press release describes Fitzpatrick's works as "visual poems, reflecting on matters of place, history, and sense of being." The "place [and] history" of Fitzpatrick's imagery are specific to America. His collages are nuanced portraits of the schizophrenic exuberance and religious sensibility that informed American perspectives in the middle of the 20th century (and that generally continue to shape our politics and character in the post-millennial world).

"Big Rock Candy Mountain" closes this Friday, May 22nd.

Tony Fitzpatrick
"Coal City Cock Fighter"
Drawing collage
10.5 x 7.5 inches

Image credits: Tony Fitzpatrick, courtesy Dieu Donne Papermill

(Note: This post appeared concurrently on the art blog, Hungry Hyaena.)

1 comment:

Donald Frazell said...

This is excellent, and what art is supposed to do, addressing the lives of humanity. Defining who we are, in this case, purely American in symbols, but reflects humanity also. Exploring nature, the animals and plants we live with, the air, materials, the very light of the sun. Searching for god. Attempting to connect to what is eternal, what gives us purpose, why we sacrifce, love and pray.

Very symbolic, but not dogmatic, evoking life, not categorizing it. Glorifying the world, not minimizing it through supposed domination. Perfect to go along with poetry, as was arts original purpose, it use to man. To be musical, poetic, to feel the world, as one. Not prosaic, attempting to splinter it, and thereby control.

A good example of artistic hubris was on the LA Times Culturemonster. This from Christopher Knight, (no, not bobby brady, well, maybe. certainly as wimpy)

Now that the high-profile media event is done, and with a provocative new chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts in the pipeline, here's a suggestion. It's also symbolic and it's cost-free too: Let's change the motto of the NEA.

The endowment's current slogan is "A Great Nation Deserves Great Art."

Wince. That imperial bit of provincial pomposity has things exactly backward.

Here's a new NEA motto: "Great Art Makes a Great Nation."

After all, that is how it works.

--Christopher Knight
Here is the reality.
Uh, that's even more pompous, of artists to think they make a nation. How about this, and it is truth. The shock of the True being the only point of art, the shock of the new being about the marketing of crap.

Great Art Reflects the Lives of a Great People.

What it has been reflecting hasn't exactly been that lately, its been about showing what the powers that were, WANTED us to see, and think, for control. To market, commodify, and rip folks off. Art was their vehicle, and also, victim.

Get to it CK, your job is NOT to tell us what art is, to explain it, but to seek, and present it. WE will make up our own minds, stop giving the hard sell spiel of the museo/academic/gallery/complex. Only artists should speak, you need to start listening, with your eyes. Instead of your wallet.

art collegia delenda est

The example of art above is humble, and truly reflects America, as human beings, not a ravenous best in search of money and power. The Best of the US. Maybe not this particual art, being teh best, but it is truthful, not the lie of art Academia, seeking to promote its own interests.

It is about US.

Lets get to it, decades have been lost, and now is the time, art is needed once again.

art collegia delenda est