SEPTEMBER 29–DECEMBER 30, 2020
SEPTEMBER 29–DECEMBER 30, 2020
In Feeding the Beast, Bo Joseph's third solo exhibition at McClain Gallery, the artist presents two parallel bodies of work: works on paper, which layer imagery from Renaissance scenes of battle, mythology and religion, and a new series of wall reliefs depicting composites of divergent historical, religious, and ritual objects that span the globe.
Since his youth, Joseph has been captivated by art from around the world, particularly artwork created for ceremonial use. His initial response to these objects was primarily formalistic, with only peripheral knowledge of their broader and essential cultural meaning. As Joseph became aware of how western civilization systematically colonized the cultures of the people whose land they occupied and whose sacred objects they plundered, he began to see himself, and by extension, the viewer, as a beneficiary of the destruction caused by one culture forcing itself on another. These preoccupations result in a friction between Joseph’s formal interest in objects and all that the act of appropriation encompasses. The referential images summon the encyclopedic stance of large western and colonial institutions and begin to tease out the role artists can play in the reconciliation of history’s fraught legacy. Joseph earnestly grapples with his own engagement with sovereign traditions and asks the viewer to question where their own contributions lie.
"The means of war have changed, but the rules have stayed the same....Battle leads to the ideological catharsis that comes with war."
- Bo Joseph
Joseph’s new series melds together appropriated imagery referencing Greek and Roman mythology, Renaissance battle scenes, Christian Biblical subjects, and depicts Roman, Germanic, Inuit, and African objects. Of note is a series of wall reliefs in a new technique developed by the artist. These graphic sculptures achieve their rich patina from casein, a medium made with milk protein with 11th-century origins. The wall reliefs explore visual combinations using a pared-back approach, with themes ranging from Jungian archetypes to a 12th-century Sufi poem, or a theatrical gladiatorial helmet seen against a powerful Ekoi figure. Joseph cites Louise Bourgeois and Joseph Beuys as profound influences not only on form and color choices, but also on the use of recontextualization to extract the charge from found sources. Across the show's works, layered scenes of historical imagery give way to energetic vibrations, framing each work in a crystallized tumult. No longer relegated to the image's perimeter, these vibrations appear throughout the composition, breaking his own rules while maintaining his trademark syncretism.
Joseph’s method of abstraction is not overt; rather, it ebbs and flows with energy, pulsing from one sheet of collaged paper to the next and across his signature concentric strokes. Outlines pile on top of and against one another, the specificity of their shapes falling away into sometimes tight and tense fields, sometimes into broad amalgamations of forms that whisper of novel, looming beings. These stacked silhouettes of positive and negative forms straddle the realms of abstraction and figurative art, examining the complexities of human relationships and asking the viewer to reevaluate their own psychic space.
WORKS IN EXHIBITION
In addition to Joseph’s well-known works on paper, Feeding the Beast includes his newest body of work, Catching Ghosts, a series of wall reliefs depicting composites of religious and ritual objects of tribal African, Roman, Germanic, Islamic, and Inuit sources. The reliefs achieve their rich patina from casein, a medium made from milk protein with 11th-century origins.
CATCHING GHOSTS: SIMORGH
Catching Ghosts: Simorgh is Joseph's reimagined version of the Sigmorgh, a mythical bird-like beast from the 12th-century Persian poem The Conference of the Birds, written by Farid ud-Din Attar. Each bird in attendance of the conference represents some human fault, or rather, the obstacles preventing one’s achievement of true enlightenment. The birds eventually set out to discover the Simorgh. In their quest, many perish. In the end, the thirty birds who finally reach the Simorgh realize they are, in fact, the Simorgh. Joseph’s interpretation of the legendary creature is a triumphal amalgamation of these birds.
CATCHING GHOSTS: ANIMA/ANIMUS
Several of the reliefs are a visual exploration of Jungian archetypes; according to Jung, the anima/animus represents the "true self" rather than the image we project into the world, serving as the primary source of communication with the collective unconscious. Catching Ghosts: Anima/Animus is a composite of a Roman theatrical helmet and a female Ekoi headdress. The gladiatorial helmet, while masculine in appearance, is submissive in its thespian nature when conjoined to the powerful, feminine Ekoi figure.
The reliefs are painted with casein which is a milk protein paint which creates a rich patina like quality. This series of works is called Catching Ghosts is a visual exploration of various Jungian archetypes.
Bo Joseph (b. 1969, California) lives and works in New York City. He received his BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992 and has received awards and honors such as the Basil H. Alkazzi Award, and fellowships in painting from Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. He has been a visiting artist/lecturer at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth and the Rhode Island School of Design where he also taught drawing. His work can be found in museums nationally and abroad including the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri; and Guilin Art Museum, China. Joseph’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Lee Eugean Gallery in Seoul, South Korea (2017), Sears Peyton Gallery in New York (2016) and McClain Gallery in Houston (2012 and 2015). Joseph’s sculptural work was included in McClain Gallery’s 2018 exhibition re:construction and in their booth at the Dallas Art Fair in 2019.
BEHIND THE SCENES