Today, terms like "flavor" and "bling" are widely accepted and used by people from a range of backgrounds — from hip hop icons and movie stars to Donald Trump and New York Times columnist William Safire — as a playful way of describing a personal and cultural style associated with excess, acquisition and the overt display of goods. Not surprisingly, many contemporary visual artists have picked up on this aesthetic consumption. They have drawn inspiration from the performance of style and acts of conspicuous consumption in different contexts as they visually investigate in creative and innovative ways related themes in their work.
Maximum Flavor presents new and recent work by eight contemporary artists and explores the presentation and performance of cultural style and taste as well as the theme of consumption. Working in photography, video, painting, sculpture, mixed media and performance, the artists look at how personal and cultural taste, commercialism and the mass production and consumption of commodities underpin perceptions — presentation, performance and definitions — of race, class, gender, religion and sexuality. Their works convey how ideas and objects within particular contexts become encrusted not only with jewels, gems, gold and other valuables, but also with complex meanings and desires to acquire and convey wealth, status and particular personas from a range of perspectives.
General Artist / Artwork Descriptions
Maximum Flavor features the work of eight artists at varying stages in their careers:
1) Sara Haas' (Germany/Rome) performative, process-oriented mixed media work comments on notions of "women's work," fashion, feminism, form vs. function and art history as well as the relationship between commodities and gender.
2) Jonathan Seliger (NYC) investigates consumerism and merchant culture's impact on the display of our own biographies, popular culture, and the negotiation of the space between high and low art.
3) Nicole Cherubini (NYC) draws on memories of her Italian-American upbringing to create brightly colored ceramic "G-pots" that she "blings" with cherubs, fur, gold chains, jewels and rope. She surrounds her sculpture with sumptuous photographs of "things" in order to highlight relationships between consumption, class, gender and desire.
4) Nikki S. Lee (NYC), a photographer and mixed media artist, engages a range of stereotypes in her photographs in order to investigate the ways in which consumption and commodities underpin identity.
5) Mickalene Thomas (NYC) creates sequin and rhinestone paintings that explore the exoticism of African-American identity and specifically the consumption of black femininity within US popular culture.
6) Hank Willis Thomas' (San Francisco) multi-media works focus on the tenuous relationship between history, the black male body, race, class and commercial markets. Willis Thomas looks at the ways in which each of these aspects comes to bear on today's carefully and intentionally developed products, logos and corresponding ad campaigns.
7) Kehinde Wiley (NYC) paints life-size portraits in the tradition of Titian and Tiepolo that engage new ideas of masculinity, consumption, representation and US urban culture.
8) Peruvian artist William Cordova (Miami/NYC) examines the relationship between nostalgia, perception and culture.
Isolde Brielmaier is a New York-based curator and Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Vassar College. She is the co-Founder and co-Director of the Brooklyn Institute of Contemporary Art (BICA), slated to open in 2007.
Brielmaier is the curator of Rewind/Re-Cast/Review at the Berrie Arts Center (2005, NJ), and co-Curator of Welcome to the Big Apple (2007, Spain) and Engaging the Camera at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. She has written and lectured on contemporary art for PARKETT Series with Contemporary Artists, Aperture, Nka: Journal for Contemporary African Art, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Brooklyn Art Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and Harvard University. She holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Columbia University.
Atlanta College of Art Gallery presents Maximum Flavor in conjunction with the 2005 National Black Arts Festival.
Paper size, 18 3/8 by 39 1/2 inches; image size, 4 1/2 by 34 3/4 inches
Collaborating printer, Chris Armijo