King of the Cockroaches
“King of the Cockroaches” draws its title from an ancient Arabic preservation myth: the king is invoked as an appeal to insects and worms not to nibble on and destroy important books and scrolls. Through observation, conservation, hoarding, reconfiguring and reenacting, Bill Santen, Becky Brown, Jess Willa Wheaton and Daniel Lichtman mold existing material into new forms. They use drawing, painting, sculpture, video and performance to show diverse ways of processing and keeping hold of the glut of material at our fingertips today.
Bill Santen creates video portraits of people and objects. Like all documentarians use found rather than created subjects, he has observed: the daily life of an immigrant fisherman, his grandfather’s knife collection, traffic patterns, tulips and lottery tickets. “Low Tide” focuses on the discovery and preservation of objects along a Bronx waterfront, juxtaposing Santen’s personal archeological interest with the livelihoods of scrappers who pillage discarded boat parts and other debris for meager economic returns.
Preservation becomes hoarding in Becky Brown’s “Safe Keeping” series, in which discarded objects are stuffed together in obsessive, futile attempts at storage. They reflect on our changing relationship with the material world: as so much is now immaterial, how and why do we hold onto physical stuff? Her drawings reconfigure found text in the form of oversized notebook pages, postcards and other paper goods increasingly displaced by digital substitutes. Trompe l’oeil elements combine with manual folding and layering to slow down acts of reading, seeing and thinking.
Jess Willa Wheaton’s collages, paintings, and books finesse unrelated found images into precise and dynamic pictorial confluence. Images are melded through a slow and cerebral process of looking and working by hand, transcending their history and prior use and embodying digital editing concepts directly in original material. For example, her collage ‘Untitled (page on stage)’ comprises printed imagery cut from 3 sources: a contemporary lifestyle magazine found in a sidewalk recycling pile, a clearance-priced coloring book, and a battered 1970s home magazine.
Daniel Lichtman makes videos, installations and performances that consider the lone-creators of public content—the community television personality, whistleblower or amateur presenter of news on YouTube—and the worlds that encourage their work. Using characters and language found online, as well as improvised material, Lichtman’s process creates an awkward, dreamy space to explore the texture of the gap between these characters’ fantasy audience, and the concrete gallery audience, reflecting on conflicted visions of community and camaraderie, private and public.
Two evenings of time-based work will accompany the exhibition, including video and performance by Pooneh Maghazehe, Matt Freedman and Tim Spelios, Bill Santen, Lillian Paige Walton, Norbert Clyde Martinez, Jr., Daniel Lichtman, Jess Willa Wheaton and Jule Korneffel, Maria Antelman, Becky Brown and Kim Hoeckele. These projects will further elaborate the theme of artists who analyze, adapt and transform material from diverse sources. Points of departure include The Odyssey, Eddie Murphy, geoscientist Paul S. Martin, filmmaker D.W. Griffith and Fleetwood Mac.
Bill Santen was born in Lexington, Kentucky; received his MFA from Columbia University and currently lives in the Bronx. His work has been screened, performed or exhibited at Sgorbati Projects, The Queens Museum and Thomas Erben Gallery (New York); the Masc Foundation (Vienna); and the Overgaden Museum of Contemporary Art (Copenhagen). As the songwriter and musician birddog (1995-2005), he released five records.
Becky Brown was born in Manhattan; received her MFA from Hunter College and currently lives in the Bronx. Her work has been exhibited at The Drawing Center and Project: ARTspace (New York); Fort Gondo (St. Louis); and Religare Arts Initiative (Delhi). She has been an artist in residence at Yaddo, Saltonstall Foundation, and others, and her criticism has been published in Art in America and The Brooklyn Rail.
Jess Willa Wheaton was born in rural Northern California; received her MFA from Hunter College, and currently lives in New York. Her recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Deluge Contemporary Art (Victoria, BC) and Goodnight Projects (San Francisco), and selected group exhibitions include The Chimney (New York), Present Company (New York), and Edward Thorp Gallery (New York). She was the 2014 Artist in Residence at Camosun College.
Daniel Lichtman was born in Philadelphia, completed his MFA at Goldsmiths and currently lives in Brooklyn. His recent and upcoming exhibitions, screenings and performances include BRIC Arts and Media House, The Drawing Center, The Queens Museum and The Bronx Museum (New York), Dynamo Arts Association (Vancouver, BC), and Oxford University (Oxford). He is currently a Media Arts Fellow at BRIC Arts and Media House.