Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brice Wood • Wonderments

January 3, 2009 - February 18, 2009

Starting on January 3 the Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery will have an exhibition featuring founding member Brice Wood’s new work. It being the start of a new year, the show is also something fresh and new from the artist, who explains, “This show is a departure for me and the gallery because the pieces are in related groups and the exhibition is more an installation about an idea than a traditional collection.”

Wood is a native Ohioan who spent most of his adult life in Los Angeles, before he and his wife arrived in Jerome in 1988. In California, Wood was an artist, animator, and designer. With education at the esteemed Cooper Union, in New York, and the Boston Museum School, Wood’s scholastic background influences a profoundly intellectual and deep thinking angle to his artwork. The Wonderments show is composed of several series, including crosses, collection boxes, and windows, all examined and expanded.

“The idea for the Roadside Memorial pieces came from something I saw when I was driving in rural Arizona . There were quite a few memorial crosses next to the road, but one in particular caught my eye. It was made of welded horseshoes. Lucky Jesus, I thought, I’ve never seen that before: a cross made of good luck symbols. At first it seemed jarring – like hearing a preacher talk about astrology. Then I thought, maybe it’s sort of like Christmas trees, which are pine trees festooned with garlands (originally festooned with animal entrails, we are told). The tradition started in Scandinavia in pagan times. It was later appropriated by Christians.”

“I like the idea of mixing things up and it set me thinking. There are a lot of examples. In the U.S. we talk about the separation of church and state, but our money announces “In God we trust,” and we include God in the Pledge of Allegiance. Surely these gestures were never anticipated by the Founding Fathers. What if we turn that around? What if we add secular elements to conventional religious symbols?”

This notion got Wood to thinking about crosses, as a symbol in particular.

“As so often happens when you are thinking about something, you begin seeing examples everywhere. Along with the predictable ones on churches and hung around people’s necks I was seeing them on t-shirts, tattoos, decals, license plate frames, and every imaginable surface.”

“There are a huge number of variants. And not all of them are nice. You only have to think of KKK cross burnings and the fact that Nazis painted crosses on their weapons to realize that Christian symbolism has a checkered past. And in our time some of the most graphically creative iterations of the cross have been the productions of prison gangs and skinheads. These often involve a mix of Christian and Norse, Celtic, or Nazi symbols. One thing led to another and I found myself producing objects that exist in – literally – crossed reality. Some are inspired by roadside memorials, some are images of religious symbols, others are reliquaries: boxes to hold miraculous objects. The reliquaries are related to Day of the Dead shrines and other Santos . Some of the style and imagery derive from tattoos and folk art. Collectively, I refer to these things as ‘Wonderments’.”

While making the cube-shaped bases for the Wonderments series, Wood noticed that one with a rectangular slot in the top looked a lot like an oversize collection box. This then spawned the “Collection Box” series. Similarly, it occurred to him that the piece of glass behind the door in reliquaries reminded him of bank teller’s and ticket seller’s windows—this then led into the “Windows” series. Thus, all installations were inspired and connected to each other. One must wonder what will come next, and in what ways viewers will find their own inspirations from the show.

“Wonderments” opens on Saturday, January 3rd, in conjunction with the very popular Jerome ARTwalk. The opening party kicks off at 5pm , and will feature music by guitarist Jimmy DuFresne, and refreshments for all guests.