What represents iconography in the 21st century? This is the question posed by curators Jennifer Finkel and Bellamy Printz in Memeography at Zygote Press. This themed group show includes an eclectic roster of artists whose work explores personal and universal themes of iconography, or "image writing." Memeography opens with a reception this Friday, June 19, from 6 to 8 p.m.
"In a culture where new channels of social and other media create images that go globally viral in a matter of minutes, Memeography looks at contemporary uses of personal and political iconography," explains Finkel. "In this dizzying digital environment, artists identify with specific objects or concepts as a way to communicate a larger message. The artists in Memeography explore a broad range of themes using a variety of signs, symbols, motifs and marks that are instantly recognizable yet highly personal."
At its core, the exhibition explores visual communication. Memeography examines how we use images to communicate on both personal and universal levels. Through social media like Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook and Twitter, images are becoming an increasingly important element to how we convey the narrative of our daily lives digitally. Thanks to the unprecedented evolution of smartphones over the past decade, nearly every member of contemporary western society has a camera and internet connection in our pocket.
"The word iconography literally means 'image writing,'" adds Printz. "Iconography studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images, not artistic style. Using this concept, the artists included in this exhibition examine notions of societal constructs and contemporary values. While some of the artists use symbolism within their imagery, others included here adapt specific forms that are ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives. Politics, economics, medicine, Utopian communities and popular culture– are a few of the subjects that artists in Memeography communicate through the integration of personal and contemporary icons."
Participating artists include Clarke Curtis, Christa Donner, Amber Kempthorn, Claudio Orso-Giacone, Arabella Proffer, Michael Wallace and myself.
"There are so many people represented that are near and dear to Zygote," says Zygote Press Executive Director Liz Maugans. "They are not always here on a consistent basis but Clark Curtis was a past student of mine at CIA and an amazing printmaker, you, of course who has collaborated on some projects, Amber Kempthorne who participated in our MONOTHON and Arabella who is just so key in this region. And then there is Claudio who is my soul brother in wood and can carve the grooves out of a piece of wood. So happy to see so many familiar folks who are presenting their work for the first time at Zygote in this show!"
Clarke Curtis was born in Eugene, OR and currently lives in Austin, TX. He received his MFA from Clemson University, but has ties to Cleveland from his BFA at Cleveland Institute of Art.. In addition to exhibiting in many states throughout the U.S., his work has been featured in numerous publications; including Vice Media, Grafik Magazine, PBS (KLRU), Printeresting and Cantanker Magazine.
Christa Donner lives and works in Chicago. She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her first solo exhibition was at MOCA Cleveland in 1999. Her work has been exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Columbia, Cyprus, Finland and throughout the U.S. In 2013, she founded Cultural ReProducers, an online, community-based resource for and about active cultural workers raising children.
Amber Kempthorn holds an MFA in Sculpture from Cranbrook University, a Post Baccalaureate Certificate from Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA from Hiram College. She currently lives and works in Cleveland, as adjunct faculty in Cleveland Institute of Art's Drawing department. Her work has been exhibited in Boston, Detroit, Florida, Vermont and numerous venues in and around Cleveland.
Claudio Orso-Giacone is an Italian artist living and teaching in Oberlin. He received his MFA from Bowling Green University and a BA from Cleveland State University. His latest exhibition, Tavula Lunga, recently opened at the Morgan Conservatory. For Tavula Lunga, Orso created wood engravings using 4 ft. by 8 ft. sheets of wood.
Arabella Proffer is an artist, author and co-founder of the former indie label Elephant Stone Records. Born in Ann Arbor, MI, Proffer has lived in many cities, including Laguna Beach, Los Angeles and Boston. She attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, before receiving her BFA from California Institute of the Arts. Her surreal portraits have been exhibited throughout North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. She lives in Cleveland and maintains a studio inside Lakewood's Screw Factory.
Michael Wallace earned his MFA in Social Practices from California College of the Arts in San Francisco after receiving his BFA in Photography from Cleveland Institute of Art. Whether its painting billionaires on commemorative plates, sending greeting cards to politicians or drawing on money, Wallace’s work is charged with socio-political meaning.
“My work examines the socio-economic gap that exists between the majority of people and the corporate/political apparatus that shapes our world,” explains Wallace. “By scrutinizing and questioning the way these institutions perpetuate this gapand are presented to us by the media, politicians, and our peers; I am providing the viewer with a lens through which to examine the world. This lens offers them an opportunity to re-witness their world through an alternative perspective. The use of familiar objects provides the viewer with a common vernacular, and this allows them to more easily understand the works. Introducing elements of satire and subversion into the works enables them to deal with difficult subjects in a more approachable way. And, this understanding and approachability can in-turn provoke the viewers to begin to raise questions of their own.”
(Full disclosure: I'll be exhibiting 12 Funny Money bills. Nine bills are new and have never been previously exhibited.)
Memeography runs through July 30. The exhibition and reception are free and open to the public. Additional viewing hours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m. or by appointment.