Joshua Liner Gallery is very pleased to present the New York/Tokyo-based collective the Barnstormers in their first group exhibition at the gallery. With thirty-five artists featured, this is the largest exhibition to date at Joshua Liner, which will double its gallery space temporarily to accommodate the special event. Expanding to host the collective’s full spectrum of art practices, the gallery will show individual works in painting, printmaking, photography, video, installation, and other mediums by the following Barnstormer artists:
Alex Lebedev, Alice Mazorra, Bluster One, Che Jen, Chris Mendoza, Chuck Webster, Cycle, Daikon, David Ellis, Dennis McNett, Doze Green, Ge-ology, Gion, Guillermo Carrion, Joey Garfield, JPL (UFO), Kami, Kenji Hirata, Kiku Yamaguchi, KR , Madsaki, Manny Pangilinan (Wello), Marlene Marino, Martin Mazorra, Maya Hayuk, Mikal Hameed, Mike Houston, Mike Ming, Miyuki (Pai) Hirai, Naomi Kazama, Pablo Power, Paul Coors, Pema Rinzin, Rostarr, Ryan McGinness, Sasu, Shie Moreno, Swoon, West One, Yuri Shibuya, and Yuri Shimojo.
Over the past decade, the Barnstormers have created large-scale collaborative paintings, films, and performances. The group formed in 1999 after a pilgrimage of twenty-five artists to the rural town of Cameron, North Carolina, where they painted barns, tractor-trailers, shacks, and farm equipment, and continue to return to paint new murals. The Barnstormers’ “motion paintings” best demonstrate the range and flexibility of their collaboration: each timelapse video depicts a mural in the making as members dart about, adding and effacing marks, evolving the image with each passing second. A 2005 project included the disassembly/relocation/reassembly of a barn captured on video in a time-lapse flurry of activity. Improvisation, in spirit and practice, is the Barnstormer ethos.
In this exhibition, the Barnstormers will present works by the group’s individual artists, all of whom have drawn acclaim in their own right and individual careers. As the unofficial founder of the Barnstormers (which rejects any form of organizational hierarchy), North Carolina native David Ellis is nonetheless the driving force who first drew this intrepid band of artists South. In his own practice, Ellis has received acclaim for freestylin’ installations inspired by popular music and DJ-ing, specifically the ways that image, sound, materials, and technology interconnect in contemporary culture. His installations have been featured at the Huntington Museum of Art, WV; Rice University Gallery, Houston, TX; Tidal, Osaka, Japan; Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh, PA; and Deitch Projects, New York. Other Southeasterners in the collective include Virginian Dennis McNett, West Virginian Martin Mazorra, and North Carolinian Mike Houston, all master printers (in a cracked, R.Crumb vein) working with Cannonball Press.
Swoon is a Brooklyn-based street artist who gained immediate international attention in the mid-’00s for her woodcut-print-on-paper portraits—lovely, intricate, and life-size, these casual views of neighborhood denizens were wheatpasted by the artist on walls and other surfaces of the urban environment in close proximity to the lives depicted. More recently, Swoon has led teams of artists in the construction of “Swimming Cities,” handmade rafts of art navigated to various ports of call on the Mississippi River, Hudson River, and Adriatic Sea where the group has performed songs and skits for local audiences.
Among the Barnstormers’ Eastern cohort are Hitotzuki, the collaborative duo of Kami and Sasu. The husband and wife team are Tokyo-based muralists who work in a distinctive style of wavy lines and geometric patterns. Born in Osaka, the artist Madsaki spent 25 years in the United States, three as a bicycle messenger in New York—now based in Tokyo, his art incorporates painting, contemporary graphic design, masks, heraldry insignia, and tag-style text, among other sources and media. Also originally from Tokyo, Yuri Shimojo brings a very different contribution to the collective: supremely delicate works in watercolor on paper. Blending imagery from nature and eastern mythology, her practice also includes journaling, dance, and the traditional arts of the Samurai from whom she is descended.
The Nagasaki-born Kenji Hirata is inspired by billboards, Southeast Asian signage, and the pop-cultural legacies of Futurism and Superflat. His unique approach to hard-edged abstraction celebrates the dynamic interplay of color and form. The photographic arts are represented by the Okayama-born Gion, who has often served as documentary photographer for the Barnstormers’ international projects. Additionally, several of the collective’s artists hail from South Korea. The Seoul-born Che Jen works in sumi ink and acrylic on vellum and paper, building up gorgeous abstractions from ornate filigree and calligraphy-style marks (she has also collaborated with Madsaki on installation works). And from Daegu, the artist known as Rostarr is the South Korean “Frank Stella,” creating dynamic abstract paintings and murals of banded colors, wavy lines, and camouflage-like patterns in acrylic and aerosol.
The Queens, NY-born graffiti writer KR became so successful that he now markets his own specially designed line of paint and markers called Krink—he built his fine art reputation in the active street/gallery crossover scene of San Francisco before coming back to New York. Doze Green, another New York-born graffiti artist in the collective, pioneered the use of ongoing-characters in street work, as well as participated in the burgeoning breakdancing and B-Boying dance styles with the Rock Steady Crew.
Maya Hayuk, who also got her footing in San Francisco, is now based in Brooklyn. She draws pure pleasure (or “bliss,” as several titles suggest) from the interplay of Day-Glo color and pure geometric forms, creating wall works of prismatic facets, spectral rays, and explosive starbursts. Similarly abstract and colorful but incorporating more organic, even vaguely representational forms, the New York-born Chuck Webster works both large and small in oil on panel. Rounding out the New York-based Barnstormers cohort is the Nicaraguan-born, Bronx-raised Chris Mendoza. His fantastical ink-on-paper drawings display a love of architectural draftsmanship and call to mind the abstract works of Miro, Kandinsky, and the Chilean modernist Matta.
To highlight the Barnstormers’ no-holds-barred sense of improvisation and internationalism, the exhibition will include Confessional Booth, a live, transatlantic project by Greater New York alum Ryan McGinness. While currently in Madrid executing his solo show Studio Franchise at La Casa Encendida, McGinness will host one-to-one conversations via Skype videoconferencing throughout the run of the Barnstormers show. Open to all visitors, the “confessionals” will be conducted during set hours from inside a draped cubicle, complementing the artist’s collaborative studio-cum-showroom project occurring simultaneously in the Spanish exhibition.
In their myriad combinations and collaborations, the Barnstormers have conducted public art projects and participated in exhibitions at venues worldwide, including Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH; Museo del Arte de Puerto Rico, San Juan; The Contemporary Museum, Honolulu, HI; Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC; Society for Arts and Technology, Montreal, Canada; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; and CWC Gallery, Tokyo, Japan.