16 November, 2012

Joshua Hagler: explores US history for lineage of the "decadent now"

"Red as Fever and White as a Ghost"
(after The Death Struggle, 1845, Charles Deas)

oil on canvas
, 83" x 60", 2012

About Josh's recent series, "The Unsurrendered"

Since receiving an invitation to join the political art project USSSA, I've begun developing work informed by 18th- and 19th-century American Western Expansion, the removal of Native Americans, and superheroes as vehicle for conflict, transformation, and fantasy. Searching for a uniquely American mythology in a rapidly changing world, I wonder whether globalization is quite so new as we imagine it to be.  I am reminded that the myth of the American West would look strikingly different if not for the economic depression in Europe that brought new immigrants here to paint it.  The work is self-conscious, ironic, and anachronistic with respect to the racially awkward position and historically inaccurate tradition of American frontier painting.

Detail from "Red as Fever and White as a Ghost"

My new paintings find levity in willed amnesia and pop culture diversion, both at once nostalgic and irreverent toward lost or misunderstood cultural traditions.  I am fascinated by the value-laden implication of progress as virtue both then and now.  As a sensibility of the “decadent now” emerges from the perceived sexiness of a newer, hipper globalization, I want to turn the same sensibility toward an older form of globalization as a strategy for satire.

"We Got a Brand New Dance and there ain't no Shelter from the Rain"
83" x 60",
oil on canvas, 2012

Questions arise about what we conveniently omit from the frame in favor of a more triumphant narrative of progress and what we idealize and fantasize about once we become overwhelmed by its day-to-day workings.

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