Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Coming To Take You Down

B. Moss

B. Moss: Diagnostic Landscapes
Joan Wich & Company
Opens Friday, Feb. 20, 6-8 pm

DEBRIS: Won’t Get Fooled Again, Again.

Heal the heartache. Soothe the wounds of a divided nation and a hateful world. No, I don’t think so. Talking with Brian Moss is like a conversation with Kup from the 1986 Transformers movie. Everything that happens has a reference, and they’re usually not too flattering. Watch as a planet changes into a giant robot and grabs the earth in its hands, you might have something new, but besides that- it’s all been done under the sun.

Elect a charismatic leader with too many hopes and dreams? Been there. Financial system collapses due to American greed? Done that. Another new fashion, designed to titillate and offend? Bullshit. It’s been done, and done better. Moss will be center stage this February 20th at Joan Wich Gallery (4411 Montrose) for his first solo show, but don’t expect that to be a time for reflection.

A gruff snarl, maybe a silly face, but no deep introspection. The man stands for a minute with pain on his face, but then grabs his knee and complains about digging palms out of the ground all over the Third Ward and Eastwood. He rotates his shoulder slowly, speaking of exploding head gaskets and motorcycles chopped into Road Warrior monsters. Rubbing his eyes, he is reminded of the sights and smells of war in Bosnia in the late 90s. Soreness may only portend a story about racing bikes in San Francisco in its punk rock heyday. Any and every task is easy work, when compared to twelve hour shifts at a printing factory in Oakland, brutal on the body and mind. With the same gallivanting Hessian spirit that sent mercenaries across the world to participate in the American Revolution, it’s the fight that drives Moss, and it’s always worth it.

The fields and forests of the heartland lie in the back of Moss’s mind. Born into a generations-old military family, his early years were spent in art school in Missouri learning the tedious, oil-based printing processes that dominated the identity of the 20th century. Wood-block prints illustrated the seedy, brutal world of newly industrialized and commoditized German Empire and the Weimar Republic between world wars. Lithography brought out Parisian nightclubs, dark alleys and drunks passed out in cafes. Offset printing from rubber to paper brought newspapers into ubiquity. Photo-collage propaganda masked the horrors of Soviet Russia in Technicolor technology and bright, shining smiles of the people’s will- before many of the artists themselves were sent to the Gulag for torture and death. Silkscreens carried the American cultural explosion across the world on T-shirts; from “Property of USC” to “Frankie Says Relax” and Kid Robot creations. The tactility of printmaking began to break down as soon as Moss had mastered his medium, from the invention of the photocopy to the laser printer and the digital press. Imagery has moved onto the screen and out of the confines of physical reality, leaving the anachronism of printmaking solutions to aestheticians.

Into this space, the loss of real solutions in the face of psychological band-aids and fully realized imaginary worlds, steps Moss’s latest body of work. He began in parking lots, on sidewalks and in empty lots, zeroing in on discarded material to repurpose. Moss found photographs, banal scenes from other people’s eyes. Buoyed along by the GI Bill, he copied, redrew, distilled, sketched, denatured, scrawled and scribbled his snapshot inspirations into ghostly, depopulated landscapes and examinations of emptiness. Moss struggled against the faculty at the University of Houston, continually denying them a window into his process, an easy explanation for his work. His rejection of artworld mores led him to be labeled nihilistic and poisonous. The final coffin nail was Moss’s thesis, presented as a five-inch thick stack of unreadable transcripts. Undeterred, he always believed that there was no place in art for pop psychology, for easy answers.

For this February 20th exhibit Moss has expanded the size of his large charcoal drawings, the emptiness populated by abstractions of light, wind and texture. As the 21st century buoys us away from physicality, reality and tactility, these wisps of calm hold the viewer to the inevitable loss of their life- to a moment when the world, in all its vitality and emotion, floats away from us- leaving only quiet contemplation and the search for a reference to ground it in.


Anonymous said...

great stuff, sean