It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
of what is found there … William Carlos Willams
Los Angeles-based artist Joe Biel’s exhibition comprises five large-scale drawings, eight smaller drawings, and single wall drawing made over a period of five days.
In his spare, humorous and dark depictions of children in fantastic and disturbing settings Biel’s images leave a strong visual and psychological mark. In all of the imagery in this exhibition, children or child-like figures take on adult roles or engage in the power roles of an adult world. They can seem menacing or controlling but their degree of power is always tentative, slightly ridiculous and possibly more dangerous because of this. The images can be both grandiose and obscene.
While Biel’s images may at first seem to be extremely enigmatic and personal, they are in fact rife with literary, art-historical and pop-cultural references and associations. In “The News from Poems” an adolescent figure strongly resembling Franz Kafka listens to a portable radio with a broken antenna (the “news” from poetry perhaps—or lack of it); other works draw on imagery Biel has taken and interpreted visually from James Joyce, Michael Palmer, John Ashbery and the band Radiohead.
Biel affirms a strong psychological aspect to the work: “One of the things I think about is the fact that often the situations depicted are absurd to the point that they call out to be seen as internal states depicted in very precise concrete terms.”
Biel’s medium is drawing, generally on paper, which offers him more freedom as an artist: “Drawing is often seen as being `in service’ to painting and sculpture. The idea that drawing can make weighty statements with the same punch as more epic and supposedly archival mediums still seems surprising to some people. But for me, being less concerned with eternity frees me to go on to other concerns.”