War-mart, the latest show by Australian artist Andrew Chan
- opening Nov. 14 at New York’s hpgrp gallery - couldn’t be more timely given this heated presidential election season. It ponders the ravages of war, its aftermath and its cultural impact.
This new exhibition at hpgrp gallery New York in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District features an 11-foot-long papier-mâché battleship … drawings and paintings depicting disturbing piles of military and other industrial detritus (helmets, scrap metal, engine blocks and Humvees) ... a “Terrorvision” wall of portraits in the style of TV-screen media walls, featuring terrorists and extremists in the media … and a video in collaboration with New York-based artist Jason Varone representing a glitchy, questionable security camera on the battleship.
Andrew Chan’s work has been described as “apocalyptic realism” by Ben Binstock, the author of Vermeer’s Family Secrets (Routledge, 2008) and a professor of art history at Cooper Union. Andrew’s work ranges from commentaries on rampant consumerism, the underlying violence and abyss of Western culture, even our obsession with food, consumption (in all forms) and eating. In “War-mart,” these themes are weaved around the central form of a 11-foot-long battleship, paintings and drawings of military and industrial detritus, a surveillance video and a wall of works featuring competing images taken from television.
The papier-mâché battleship, “Chan o’ War,” riffs on an object that is obsolete. The dilapidated form of this mammoth hulk of a battleship represents an American foreign policy in the service of ambivalent, frustrated and fraught domestic political agendas. The mammoth, ghost-like battleship seems to fail or in danger of buckling before the viewers eye as if being crushed by the weight of the viewer’s expectations of what a battleship looks like and should be—a work of precision engineering.
In the surveillance video that accompanies the battleship sculpture (a collaboration with multimedia artist, Jason Varone) black and white grainy footage of the four-quadrant surveillance video takes the viewer inside the battleship from the vantage point of a security camera that flickers in a loop—a nether fantasy world where real experience is substituted for a voyeuristic, vicarious one.
Andrew’s paintings continue the theme. “Stockpile to Target” features the disturbing piles of military and industrial detritus adds up to a condemnation of the overwhelming waste of our consumerist / capitalist / American culture. The stacks of Humvees are regurgitated as a fleshy mass of parts. In “Terror-vision,” a work composed of 40 separate paintings that form a wall of screaming screens from which Bulgarian Idol, cosmetic surgery, seeming terrorists, talking heads, military analysts and denizens of the 24 hour news entertainment cycle.