Surely, readers of this blog will recognize the name Thomas J Gamble. He's been contributing weekly "political cartoons" to Humor and the Abject under the series title INFINITE HESH. He's a good friend, and one of the most interesting artists working with figuration and alternative processes around. This Friday, September 1st, Gamble will be part of a two-person exhibition, "VICIOUS CIRCLE," with Boston artist Annie Zverina at Anytime Dept. in Cincinnati.
Earlier this week, I included Anytime Dept. in an artnet News piece as one of the artist-run spaces in cities outside of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago that were thriving. This will be their third exhibition, following on the heels of their debut solo effort in June by Portland's Derek Tyler Franklin, which was followed by a two-person show featuring Jodie Cavalier, also of Portland, and James Maurelle of Philadelphia. I'm excited to keep an eye on this new project space. Soon, I'll be posting the full interview with them that I did while researching the artnet News piece to provide a larger frame of reference for their gallery's mission and structure.
I'm new to Annie Zverina's work, but taking a tour around her website has me eager to learn more. The above work, described on her site as "two fictionalized crashes" with a humorous alternative title of Fugitives from Historical Responsibility, smashes together German artist Joseph Beuys and American journalist Brian Williams. Both men are known for a kind of Stolen Valor-lite approach to their autobiographies. Beuys claimed ludicrously that he'd been rescued by nomadic Tatar tribesman when his military plane crashed on the Crimean front in 1944--part of his "artist mythology" that later informed his material choices. Williams was famously disgraced when forced to admit that he'd fabricated a story about an RGP hitting a military helicopter he was traveling in over Iraq. As publicly-adored, powerful white men, neither truly ended up paying any actual price for their storytelling. Beuys is in every twentieth century western art history textbook, and Williams is chief anchor on MSNBC.
Keep an eye on Anytime Dept.'s website for documentation from the show to see what Zverina contributes. It will be interesting to see her work, which has a clean and measured aesthetic, juxtaposed in conversation with Gamble's, which he literally described to me once in earnest as "typical American trash boy." The exhibition's press release states, "For both of these artists, the process of collecting, distilling, and connecting various images and histories is paramount and reveals disruptions in linear understandings of dominant historical narratives."
What's always caught my eye about Gamble's work is that it's an obvious homage to the aesthetics of punk fliers and screenprinted band t-shirts, but he's got a bit more of an eye for composition and a steadied hand. The snark of punk is there, but with a reverberating low end of complex melancholy and a flare for poetry, all rendered in startling detail by his evident skill as a studied draftsperson. Had be been born a decade later than he was, he probably would have been heavily posting on Tumblr in the "sad boy" genre. That micro-generational gap though means that he likely encountered the internet for the first time not as a place to post visual content, but rather as a place to participate in message boards on punk forums and drug communities like Erowid. Hailing from the Rust Belt, the same abject Midwest corridor where Anytime Dept. has set up shop, zines and mail order punk CDs were clearly his proto-web access to exciting social networks outside of Erie, PA.
Anytime Dept. posted a short, but informative, interview with Gamble and Zverina on their site in the lead-up to the exhibition. Asked by the gallery, "What can we do now for the realization of alternatives?" Gamble's response included, "If the president is, by all accounts, a 'successful' person, then the idea of being a failure is not so bad." Zverina followed, "We have to embrace the hysterical with seriousness and rigor." This embrace of the misfit ethos, the paranoid but attentive ne'er-do-well, seems to be central to the curators' decision to exhibit these seemingly disparate artists in the same context.
Indeed, while distinct in their approaches in terms of both media and visual vocabularies, there will exists much common political ground. Each has a deep interest in narrative and a practice that culls from specific areas of culture, while simultaneously being suspicious of culture's frustrating inability to upset oppressive power structures. Clearly, Zverina is somebody to keep an eye on, and Humor and the Abject will keep posting Gamble's illustration work for as long as he is amiable to it.
If you're in Cincinnati, cruise by the opening reception between 6pm and 10pm on Friday night. Both Gamble and Zverina will be in attendance, and you can send my congratulations from afar to the artists, as well as the gallery's co-founders and curators, Rebecca Steele and Lydia Rosenberg.
"VICIOUS CIRCLE" will be on view at Anytime Dept., 4120 Hamilton Ave, Cincinnati, OH 45223, from September 1st through September 24th, 2017.
To set up a viewing, email: firstname.lastname@example.org