First Friday Art Trail: July

July’s First Friday Art Trail brought a new exhibition worthy of your time, Patent Pending, curated Jonathan Whitfill. It offers a selection of mostly thought-provoking works based around obsolete patent books as base materials, and will be thouroughly reviewed by Jordann Davis this week (stay tuned!). In this partial absence, I’ll relegate my attentions to two shows on view since June: John Hitchcock’s “Storms of War: Re Tracing the Plains” and Ken Dixon’s “18 Months Intermezzo”.


Patent Pending (Photo credit: Victoria Marie Bee)

Hitchcock’s multimedia (print and drawing) works in this series depict heads of North American animals—mostly real, some imaginary—cut out and hung like a mural across the large walls of the LHUCA’s DeVitt exhibition hall. They are drawn like demented puppets, looking like burlap sewn with thick thread in the shape of the corresponding creature’s head. Accompanying these herds of heads are cartoon helicopters, tanks, missiles, and bombs: implements of war that, though not made of burlap, are still cartoonish. Sprays of these weapons fly across the walls from one herd to another in mock battle. From the diaspora of reference the point comes through clearly. It’s political commentary, but not of the overbearing kind. Shoddily constructed semblance of natural life, the fear of violent death, and implements of artificial death trace much of the Great Plains’ history since our westward expansion through it. (See his artist talk at LHUCA here>>>)

“18 Months” describes the show’s theme neatly; it is the collected new work of 18 months of Dixon’s efforts in studio. His description of the works also match up well with the works’ direction; that is, there is no direction. The pieces reflect the artist’s interactions with the literature, places, and times that have made an impression on him of late. They seem to represent, essentially, a set of conscious reactions to and prioritizations of his stream of consciousness. The work is art because the artist interacted with it. No distinct philosophy, spiritual vision, political message, or considered interpretation comes through because to impose any of that on the work would rob it of its essence. That in itself, though, is quite a statement. If (as one who also observes things) my perception of the world imbues my surroundings with meaning, then my (not intentionally artistic) perception and mental arranging of things must also have created a sizeable body of work. Reading the work less heavily, as a suggestion rather than an edict, I may simply be led to appreciate my daily interactions with surroundings more deeply, rather than elevating them to masterpiece.

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