We recently had the honor of guest curating an exhibition at The Good Luck Gallery, an important, new space in Los Angeles. Founded and directed by former Artillery publisher Paige Wery, The Good Luck Gallery is the only space in LA dedicated to showing the work of self-taught artists. Wery fosters the burgeoning careers of artists such as Helen Rae and Deveron Richard, who maintain studio practices in progressive art studios, as well as artists like Willard Hill, who fall into the Outsider, Visionary, or Vernacular categories. Mapping Fictions, curated by Andreana Donahue and Tim Ortiz, opened on July 9th and will be on view through August 27th.
Mapping Fictions presents an arrangement of works by four contemporary artists working in four different progressive art studios; Joe Zaldivar of First Street Gallery Art Center in Claremont, William Scott of Oakland’s Creative Growth, Daniel Green of Creativity Explored in San Francisco, and Roger Swike of Gateway Arts in Brookline, Massachusetts. Each of these artists’ idiosyncratic practices reflect highly original methods of archiving information through text, while also referencing fictional narratives, either from popular culture or their own devising. These approaches to art-making, traditionally ghettoized as eccentric outsider pathology (especially when generated by artists with disabilities) are reframed as relevant contemporary modes of expression. By bringing together a group of artists whose work is overtly informed by distinctly different ways of seeing, thinking, and being, but whose relationship to each other is based on the substance of their work and processes, we begin to see beyond the disparities between these artists and ourselves to discover nuanced messages.
Green, Scott, Swike, and Zaldivar embrace humanity with forgiving optimism, similar in tone and approach to Andy Warhol, but on a deeper level than Pop Art. Where Pop appropriated iconic advertising and popular culture to elevate common aesthetics and blur the line between high and low brow, these artists delve into human works that are more obscure, forgotten, or contemporary than any nostalgic idea of a coherent american culture - considering television schedules, floor plans, video games, and google maps; reiterating print ads and logos for obscure local businesses without cynicism; employing the aesthetics of propaganda to express an earnest hope for a utopian future; or merging lists of song lyrics with television show titles as though they can be appreciated or understood in the same way.
These artists present to us the systematic nature of our culture through a myriad of surprisingly intuitive, poetic, or prophetic approaches to engage with the landscape of contemporary experience - media, technology, and the humanity to be found within it.