A.J. Bocchino, Washington Post (1975), 2007, marker on paper, 30” x 40”. Courtesy of Jeff Bailey Gallery.
Jeff Bailey Gallery is pleased to announce Making History, a group exhibition curated by Yaelle Amir and featuring the work of seven artists: Paolo Arao, A.J. Bocchino, Ramak Fazel, Shaun O’Dell, Sarah Trigg, Anna Von Mertens and Martin Wilner.
With the general election rapidly approaching, the country’s rhetoric has shifted to express a need for departure from its previous ways. Making History revisits the narratives upon which our nation was founded, and reflects on what it has ultimately become. Deriving their inspiration from history books, newspapers, and firsthand experiences, the seven participating artists have crafted novel portrayals of widely known events, ranging from as far back as the Gold Rush to the recent violent acts at Virginia Tech. Viewed collectively, the exhibition paints an increasingly grim picture of the state of our nation—inundated with violence and hostility, and a value system gone awry.
Paolo Arao’s series of bullet hole portraits, Night, reflects on the violent acts that have become increasingly prevalent in our country, such as the Sean Bell murder and various mall and college shootings. Rather than maintaining a removed perspective from the implied event, Arao incorporates the frame’s reflective plexi into the concept of the work itself—thus forcing the spectator to physically become an integral part of the crime scene.
A.J. Bocchino creates prints of newspaper headlines and images culled from a process of archiving. In Washington Post (1975)  he collected every headline that was published in the Washington Post in the pivotal year of 1975. He then color-coded them according to subject matter, consequently mapping the national concerns throughout this historic year.
For his Philatexploitation project (2006), Ramak Fazel traveled through 49 of the 50 State Capitols to gain a more profound understanding of his country’s history. Utilizing a childhood stamp collection, Fazel created collages in each state based on local historical narratives, of which he learned at the local library. When the collage was complete, he mailed it to his next destination by General Delivery and set forth on his journey.
At the core of Shaun O’Dell’s drawings is the recognition that Americans have defined and recharged their sense of national self throughout history by inflicting violence on nature and its inhabitants. Composed of his personal iconography, Westward: The Corpse of Empire Takes its Way (2005) depicts O’Dell’s reflection on the Los Alamos National Laboratory, which was founded in New Mexico by Robert Oppenheimer during WWII in order to develop the first nuclear weapons.
Sarah Trigg begins her paintings at random, by selecting a particular date and researching which events had occurred on that day. Atlantis-Atlantastan (2007) presents a composite of several seemingly unrelated episodes, including the launch of the Atlantis spacecraft, a discovery of mass gravesites in Afghanistan, and a story about an Atlanta suburb. Each narrative blends into the next, while together they depict a rapid evolution of our local landscape.
In her stitched works on fabric, Anna Von Mertens translates scientific data into abstract embroidered designs, by putting to use a computer program that calculates the star rotation patterns at dawn or dusk on the days of crucial historical moments. Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!” (Sunset, January 24, 1848, Sutter’s Mill, Coloma, California)  captures the initial moments of the California Gold Rush—showing the stars coming into view on the evening gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, California, against a saturated background mimicking Hollywood’s cliché conclusion of riding into the sunset.
Every day, Martin Wilner mines the pages of the daily newspaper in search of a headline and image to add to his ongoing monthly calendar drawing series, Making History. Each month marks the beginning of a new drawing, as each day brings about a new addition to the work. The daily occurrences thus shape the form and content of the drawing, expressing both Wilner’s personal interests as well as the events transpiring around the world. By the end of the month, Wilner has curated a highly intricate mapping of recent national and global agendas.