Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Listen and Learn, an exhibition of newworks by the San Francisco-based artist Jeremy Fish. This is Fish’s second solo show with the gallery.
With its graphic style of bold lines, bizarro characters, and cartoon colors, Jeremy Fish’s art naturally lends itself to storytelling. In an unabashed celebration of this folk art form, Listen and Learn puts stories and storytellers front and center as Fish demonstrates the enduring appeal of storytelling in popular culture. The exhibition features assorted tales from a wide swath of contemporary life—including from artists, skateboarders, rappers, athletes, a stripper, a cop, and a historian—which Fish has reinterpreted in lovingly realized painted works. Rendered in acrylic on hand-cut wood panels, these thirty “story paintings” are accompanied by audio recordings of the source tales recounted by the original storytellers, available to gallery visitors on MP3 players and headphones mounted next to each work.
For this impressive project, Fish gathered a selection of friends and acquaintances whose rich lives have engendered no end of interesting tales. Most prominent among them is rapper/producer/actor Snoop Dogg, who recounts a story from childhood. In the tale, Snoop is among a select group of neighborhood kids to be bussed to a brand new, highly touted elementary school. Right off, Snoop gets into trouble when he allegedly exposes himself to a female student in the lunch line. The rapper’s account of the principal’s reprimand displays his undisputed gift for storytelling and turning naughty content into witty word games with a humorous twist. In Pulled Out My Worm, Fish’s painted rendition of the tale, these story elements are incorporated into a baroque-style mirror image of two dog silhouettes, adorned with scrolling filigree, cartoon characters from an American childhood, and neighborhood identifiers.
California artist Mike Giant is represented by a story from the early days of his career, when all focus was directed toward skateboarding and graffiti. Unemployed, broke, and hanging out in London in the late 1990s, Giant finds himself in a train yard with several other graffiti writers. As he concentrates on creating one well-crafted piece, a Dutch loudmouth in their cohort exhorts the group to “KILL ALL CARS!” with a comprehensive tagging of the train system. This sets off a mad dash to capture a single photograph of his own personal work, leaving Giant battered and bloodied but successful. Fish’s Kill All Cars captures the earnestness and challenge of those bygone days against the backdrop of a tough unforgiving city; here, a dilapidated commuter train is personified as holding a camera, a seeming collaborator with the lone artist in documenting his early efforts at recognition.
Another example is, a hilarious story, Don’t Hold Back from Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic collaborator, DJ Big Wiz. Dressed in his new shell-toe Adidas, the imposingly sized Big Wiz steps out onto a dark residential sidewalk for a smackdown with a pair of rabid raccoons. This tale of intimidation and confrontation, complete with crazy raccoon calls and armchair animal psychology, is styled as a street fight over turf (listen to the recording to see who wins). In addition to the thirty story paintings—featuring tales by Mars-1, Courtney Taylor of the Dandy Warhols, and skateboarder Lance Mountain, among others—the exhibition will also include previews of Fish’s forthcoming animation works and an installation project. “My hope is that as viewers take in the artworks, they’ll be made curious enough to want to hear the stories,” says Jeremy Fish. “In this era of email, texting, and blogging, we are losing a grasp on the concept of sitting around the campfire and exchanging life experience through the telling of tall tales. I want to remind people of the importance of storytelling.”