Chuck Sperry, Chris Shaw, Ron Donovan
New paintings, installations, and limited silkscreen editions
Varnish Fine Art, 16 Jesse Street, #c120, San Francisco, California 94105 – phone: 415-433-4400
Artist Reception: January 14, 2012, 4pm to 7pm
JANUARY 14 – FEBRUARY 18, 2012
Lending rock and alternative music a form of visual expression in sync with their urban environments, Chuck Sperry, Chris Shaw, and Ron Donovan embrace, alter, re-assign meaning and re-contextualize images until they become the medium-the subject emerging, used purposely–irreverently or reverently–to transform ephemeral events and experiences into a lexicon of shared cultural visual memory.
“Donovan, Shaw and Sperry have made their living creating expressive contemporary prints and posters for both the collector and the general public whose capacity for images is not just at its maximum, but teetering on overload. Dedication to their craft has rewarded them with a mastery of color theory, composition and print design that creates a language that can be seen, perhaps almost heard, amidst a visually competitive, urban environment. Never known for following the consensus of any art establishment, these three have a strict loyalty to their craft, and have become leading innovators of the rock poster art form. Their suspicion and disdain for mainstream American politics often characterizes their approach to making art. With a sincere dedication to a broad public audience, they reflect a social consciousness and draw much from the immediate urban environment.” – Renee de Cossio, curator SFMOMA
In Mind Spring, Sperry creates an icon of the Worldwide Occupy Movement and it’s antecedent in the Arab Spring. The figure wreathed in blooming spring flowers is a representation of the surprising enlightened humanism, the opening mind, the broadened socio-political possibilities which has swept the world in 2011.
We look forward to seeing you, and celebrating the closing of our installation at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
I will be offering new large format works on wood panel, with limited paper and variant paper editions as well. These will be released at the show and then very soon after on my website at a time to be announced. Stay tuned I’ll post these new works, and release times as the show approaches.
Below, I’ve included SFMOMA curator Renee de Cossio’s statement on our installation at the Museum:
Ongoing until January 12, 2012, SFMOMA Artists Gallery is presenting three S.F. Bay Area artists Ron Donovan, Chris Shaw and Chuck Sperry and their site specific art installations in a 24/7 exhibit at the SF MOMA Garage Windows on Minna and Natoma Streets. For almost twenty years, Donovan, Shaw and Sperry have been cultivating and developing an important component of the music scene and culture: the Rock Art Poster. Lending rock and alternative music a form of visual expression, in sync with their urban environments, the artists embrace, alter, re- assign or retain meaning, re-contextualize the image, not just as the image, but the image as the medium. The image is their medium, and the subject emerges and is used purposely, irreverently, or reverently, engaging viewers – asking them to stop, look and listen.
Donovan, Shaw and Sperry have made their living creating expressive contemporary prints and posters for both the collector and the general public whose capacity for images is not just at its maximum, but teetering on overload. Dedication to their craft has rewarded them with a mastery of color theory, composition and print design that creates a language that can be seen, perhaps almost heard, amidst a visually competitive, urban environment.
Donovan, Shaw and Sperry often reference the legacy of founding rock poster artists, such as Wes Wilson, Rick Griffin, Victor Moscoso and Stanley Mouse (creators of famous album covers for Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Quicksilver, and Aoxomoxoa, and the many posters of the 60’s and 70’s that papered walls and street posts announcing concerts for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin, to name a few). These originators of the rock poster including promoter Bill Graham, had established it as a visual arts vehicle, giving it an identity of its own, characterized by unusual, off-beat color combinations, dynamic fonts and captivating imagery. Irreverence, imbedded into the beat of the times, resonated through many forms of expression. Many of these early rock poster artists made a conscious break from formal art norms and standards taking departure through artistic exploration that included altered perceptions and “new” ways of thinking and seeing. The posters became part of a messaging system that played an important role both locally and nationally, in moving and gathering people, engaging them to take part in the social movements of the time.
Building on the socially aware art poster scene of the 1960’s and acutely aware of its mostly unwritten art history, Donovan, Shaw and Sperry share a philosophy, a DIY (do it yourself) mindset; the use of their art sprang out as an expression of guerilla marketing, contributing to the successful efforts of many musicians and independent music labels, (Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label, and bands Metallica, Green Day, Faith No More, and The Melvins, etc.). Remarkably, these three working artists with a prolific work output demonstrate an acute awareness of social context and popular culture. In doing so, they can often be seen as a visual measure, even mediums, of social currents and constructs. It is where Internet 2.0 comes full circle around to life in the physical world; with a language of visuals and word of mouth marketing that is art.
Heirs of the 1960’s San Francisco Bay Area rock poster artists, Donovan, Shaw and Sperry are the next generation, whose process and approach to art making, reflect the varied complexities of contemporary times. In this exhibition, the artists expand beyond the confines of formatting described by standard paper dimensions, to create monumental, colorful, hand painted, multi-dimensional, art installations – which are black lit at night.
In the Minna Street windows, each has created his own individual installation and has chosen a female as his main subject. Although the artists have worked closely together for years, each installation is as different in style as its creator:
Chuck Sperry’s Saint Everyone, features a woman with long hair gazing toward the viewer over her bare back and right shoulder. On large canvas, she is surrounded by an opt-art patterned sphere and background and is painted in fiery-hot red drastically contrasted by her features and details painted in an opaque sky blue. With an ambiguous stare suggesting worry, fear or perhaps anger, she lifts a lotus flower upward between the viewer and her gaze, as an offering gesture, perhaps a warning. Her presence evokes a sense of humanism, sensuality and spirituality—all which seem caught in a crucial state in a chaotic world displayed by the painting’s reactive background.
Next to Sperry’s installation, is Chris Shaw’s Madonna Fukushima. The richly colored painted canvas features a Japanese woman in traditional dress standing, caught balancing herself with a container of flowers, nature’s gifts from the garden, in one hand while grasping at her cloak in the other. Sadly things will never be as they once were. Her expression speaks of shock and alarm. Her once calm, peaceful world has turned into a stirring, crashing deluge of catastrophic proportions described by a Hokusai wave and ocean swells engulfing the Fukushima nuclear reactors in the background.
In the third window is Ron Donovan’s multi- layered print on wood panels titled Keeper of the Gate. Amazonian-in presence, provocative, his main female subject is suited in an armor of multi-cultural symbols and imagery from eastern and Pan Pacific ethnicities. She stands grasping a Hindu sword in each hand. Sexuality, spirituality, and ancient religious mythology and metaphor are her weapons. Wearing wings, like Garuda the male winged god, she displays the combined characteristics of animals and divine beings.
Black lit? Rather than to remind one of the head shops of earlier decades, the change in lighting activates the artists’ delivery of alternate perceptions of color, and maybe even a moment of synesthesiastic viewing. (Synesthesia is a neurological condition where stimulation of one sense or thought process leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in another sense; for example, seeing colors when you hear music, and vice versa). The work raises questions about how one really sees color and if, in the act of seeing, there is more to experience than some acknowledgement of what you think you are seeing? Can or does one feel color– perhaps even hear it? Marrying music with a visual art form, Donovan, Shaw and Sperry continue exploring and seeking ways to expand the visual experience. They apply their depth of knowledge of color theory principles, ultimately by purposely and creatively altering formal color relationships and aesthetics. Viewers can see these works under conventional light conditions by day, and return to a very different experience under the black lights at night. Through color and perception, the artists suggest opportunities for new sensorial visual perceptions, introducing non-classified forms of art to a much classified and defined art world.
Never known for following the consensus of any art establishment, these three have a strict loyalty to their craft, and have become leading innovators of the rock poster art form. Their suspicion and disdain for mainstream American politics often characterizes their approach to making art. With a sincere dedication to a broad public audience, they reflect a social consciousness and draw much from the immediate urban environment.
In the Natoma windows, Chris Shaw and Chuck Sperry collaborated to present Temporary Bound. In 3 separate hinged and painted panels totaling almost 60 feet in length, are three gorgons representing the Greek myth of Perseus and Medusa. There are different translations of the myth, but each share a reaction in one way or another to the perilous nature of feminine beauty.
Shaw and Sperry describe the installation:
“The work’s form is derived from an Asian “accordion” book, while the subject, “Three Gorgons” reflects the artists’ western influences. The free intertwining of Eastern and Western references is not only evocative of the modern technological world, but also of San Francisco, a cultural melting pot on the Pacific Rim.”
Here is a link to continue reading their description of the work.
– Renee de Cossio, curator SFMOMA