Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new drawings by Charles Gaines. On view will be works from his recent Randomized Text and Explosion series. In the larger context of his "Disaster Narratives, Gaines is interested in critiquing the way we experience art: in particular how we derive meaning and the experience of feeling from it. Gaines complex explorations attempt to reveal the political underpinnings of artistic representation by laying bare the linguistic structures that form truth/meaning and feeling. By understanding that feeling is produced in art rhetorically, Gaines attempts to show that the truthfulness of any expression is politically realized, that it is an expression of political belief and not truth.
In Randomized Text: History of Stars, photographs of the night sky are paired with handwritten texts of sentences from two books, Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Orientalism, by Edward Said. The sentences are chosen based on a randomizing system in which alternate sentences from each text are combined according to the letter of the first word in the previous sentence. The result is a text whose content or meaning is disconnected from the meaning generated by the sequencing of the sentences. When one reads this text, meaning emerges nevertheless, pointing to a property in language that forms meaning through metaphors and metonyms. It becomes clear that meaning emerges less through the property of individual words, but much rather through patterns of word sequences that are either metaphorically or metonymically determined.
There is a suggestion also that much of meaning is arbitrarily determined (that something that is meaningless becomes meaningful in the process of discourse) as word sequences come together to form meanings that are not anchored in reality. In this situation, a feeling of the real is formed because of a type of sense or tautological logic that is produced when connections are made between random events. This is a dialectical between randomness and logic where moments of sensibleness are experienced among hours and hours of senselessness.
Randomized Text: History of Stars is a continuation of texts works that began with Randomized Text: History of Missiles in 2006 and follows Gaines earlier series of Incomplete Text (1979), Submerged Text (1990), and Canceled Checks (1997-2000).
Gaines describes the Explosion drawings as follows:
The idea for the Explosion Drawings series came to me after I made the machine-sculpture "Airplanecrashclock" in 1997. That work was a continuous repetition of an airline crash occurring as part of a construction of a downtown city scene. I got the idea of doing the drawings after constructing the crash scene. I noticed that that process of constructing the scene was a lot like painting and drawing. About 5 years later, I did two large drawings, Airplanecrash 1 and 2, where I first developed the technique for realizing the image of an explosion using graphite. These drawings were scenes of plane crashes at the point of impact, and the resultant explosions. I continued with this in another series in 2005 called Airplanecrash Drawings which included stylized graphite renderings of the explosions separated from the scene of an accident. The present series, "Explosion Drawings" was realized by focusing on the explosion itself without reference to a specific event or accident. My interest in the social context of the accident remained, and in response, I realized the "appendix", a text that accompanies the drawing. In Explosion Drawings #1 through #7, the text merges two to three separate texts that speak to an event in political history and the description of things that causes explosions such as bombs and missiles. I use the syntactical framework of sentences in order to make the merge seem seamless as the subject switches rather arbitrarily between these two or three subjects, creating the illusion of speaking of a single subject. In Explosion Drawing #8 on, the appendix is a description of a war of emancipation, usually a narrative describing an anti-colonialist insurgency.
This series is a continuation of what I call "Disaster Narratives" that I began in 1995 with my series "Night/Crimes". The entire enterprise, the "Disaster Narratives, is interested in critiquing the way we experience art: in particular, the experience of pathos (feeling). This is an attempt to reveal the political underpinnings of artistic representation by advancing feeling as a function of rhetoric, which therefore makes acts of expression strategic and political. In "Explosion Drawings," the political contextualization of the explosion is a clear pastiche of unrelated subjects, webbing the aesthetics of the drawings with political history. The arbitrariness of this conflation I feel is what really underlies the illusion of pathos in representation, thus revealing the rhetorical level of discourse. It is the gap between content and the form of its representation that produces this pathos and sense of reality. Usually, when there is symmetry between form and expression, we are convinced that this is the result of a reality and truthfulness of the discourse and/or the image. But by arbitrarily combining content and expression, I want to show that the truthfulness of any expression is politically realized, that it is an expression of political belief and not truth. This, to me, suggests that content realized by pastiche is not a lie, nor is it truth, it is simply, what Jean Francos Lyotard suggests, discourse. Charles Gaines, 2006
Charles Gaines work has been featured recently in a two person exhibition with Edgar Arceneaux at the RedCat Gallery, Los Angeles and at the Lentos Kunstmuseum in Linz, Austria. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at Triple Candie, New York; Luckman Fine Art Gallery California State University, Los Angeles; Walter/McBean Gallery, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco; Santa Monica Museum, Santa Monica; Fresno Art Museum, Fresno, John Weber Gallery, New York City, Leo Castelli Gallery, New York City, and at Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles, among others. He has been included in Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970", Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; in Fade (1990-Present): African American Artists in Los Angeles, Luckman Gallery, Cal State LA; Recherche-entdeckt! Bilderarchive der Unsichtbarkeiten, Sixth Esslingen International Photo Triennial, Galerie der Stadt Esslingen am Neckar, Germany; Structure of Difference: Painting, Sculpture, and Photography of the Past 50 Years, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Deep Distance-Die Entfernung der Fotografie, Kunsthalle Basel; in More than Meets the Eye: Triennale der Photographie, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg; "Some Grids: The Grid in Twentieth Century Art," Los Angeles County Museum of Art LACMA; "New Dimensions in Drawing, 1950-1980," Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield; and in the "Whitney Biennial," Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.