Seduction, fear, and consumption whirl through a smartly-choreographed dance in the artwork of Ohio-based artist, Carrie Olson. Employing porcelain and wallpaper, traditional signifiers of luxury and decoration, Olson examines the societal manipulation of fear, paranoia, and the use of object and ornament for identity signification. The end result illuminates the relationship they create between objects and their perceived value versus their utility. Contemporary public safety threats, including the bird flu, terrorism, and, more recently, the H1N1 swine flu, are transformed by Olson into objects of decadent ornamentation. Impeccably executed with vivid color palettes and delicate, whimsical lines, these multi-media installations are undeniably captivating: it is only upon learning the names of the works, such as H5N1 Cakewalk and Banner (2008) and Ebola Moresco and Banner (2008) that the viewer becomes aware they are actually seeing reproductions of virulent organisms. Viewers are, as Curator Natalie Marsh explains, “absorbed by her insidiously alluring ‘flora’ ornamentations but then ‘dis-ease’ sets in when we find Olson assigns signification-motivating diagnostic titles… the double evocations of disease and folk dance.” On view at CUE Art Foundation, Olson’s first solo show in New York, is a self-described “spectacle,” consisting of respirators, disks and banners. Both alluring and illuminating, this exhibition takes a peircing perspective on our culture’s current vehicles for its identity, and calls on the viewer to do the same.
Since 1971 San Diego-based artist, Raul Guerrero has practiced the art of compiling Latino history and color of daily life, his visual work serving as a nexus for the myriad sub-cultures of the Southwest and beyond. Emulating the characteristics of piled, brilliant cellophane sheets, vignettes of seemingly disparate cultural imagery blend effortlessly together to create his luminescent oils paintings. His work captures the processes of Toulouse-Lautrec and is infused with the ideas of Duchampian Dadaism and Surrealism. Through his vivid, mature cultural studies, Guerrero skillfully examines aspects of Latino culture laying outside of traditional kitsch. His clear canvasses immerse the viewer in an environment that is tangible, but unattainable anywhere else naturally by the human eye — constructing a variation on a dream. This artistic exploration has forged an expansive, ever-evolving vision that continually engages the histories of culture and imagery in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. Guerrero reinvents cultural experiences in a way that confronts and questions history on both a local and international level. By attempting to capture the expressive, diverse world he lives in, his works transform from mere memories and observations to unarguable sociopolitical statements. Shown in its entirety for the first time ever will be Guerrrero’s Oaxaca Series (1984-1985) at CUE Art Foundation, his first solo show in New York City in over twenty years. These works illustrate Guerrero’s uncanny ability to meld our divergent cultural heritages into a uniquely personal, but also shared new “reality,” serving both as a unifier and critique on the present.