Darren Weik, 23, who graduates from the Atlanta College of Art on May 15, makes unexpected, provocative, still rough-around-the-edges work about the ubiquity of violence-as-entertainment.
Weik's manifold meditations on violence will be featured in an ACA Gallery 100 show The Pathetic Sublime and in the ACA Gallery exhibition Ready, Set, Go! alongside 35 other graduating seniors. Both shows run through May 16.
In a series of paintings inspired by French cinema, Weik shows how those films can serve as a kind of gauge for how we view violence against women. Weik's paintings are rendered in a pixilated, media-filtered format reminiscent of Chuck Close's dot-paintings, and are based on a trio of French films notorious for their use of violent imagery. "I realized they represented women's sexual roles in films," he says of his images drawn from Georges Franju's 1959 plastic surgery shocker Eyes Without a Face, and two more recent films centered on graphic, prolonged rape scenes, Baise-moi and Irreversible. To Weik, those films showed the roles offered to women in cinema, as aggressors (Baise-moi), virgins (Eyes) or victims (Irreversible).
Weik sheds new light on an old Madonna-Whore dichotomy. All three films center on violence done to women, but how those women react, as victims or avengers, is what interests Weik. Are the babe-action heroes who go after their own rapists in Baise-moi any better than the woman in Irreversible beaten and brutalized into a blood-soaked, comatose victim? Which outcome is preferable as social message? Which speaks more profoundly to the experience of violence? Which is more liberating?
Weik is surprisingly soft-spoken considering such hard core imagery and in-your-face ideas. In his black wind breaker and necktie that give him the look of a hep 1950s pencil pusher, Weik is the last person you'd expect to be dealing in such button-pushing imagery -- or launching a Tipper Gore-style attack on our cultural love affair with sexual violence.
Weik's skeptical eye toward the violence spoon-fed to his own generation is also manifest in the medium of the child's lunch box, which he has reappropriated as a window into our morbid fixations in his Gallery 100 installation.
Mixing social commentary and dark comedy, Weik jumps off from the thinly veiled marketing of adult violence to impressionable kiddies in vintage Rambo and Terminator lunch boxes.
Weik's revamped plastic totables feature a spectrum of freeze-frame photographs of graphic violence from Bonnie and Clyde to American History X, Fight Club and Reservoir Dogs, which he has adhered to the boxes. What might seem innocuous sped up in a film becomes grotesque and horrifying in isolation when entry wounds, pain-contorted faces and brain-splattered walls make the true dimensions of violence register.
Like most American children, Weik grew up watching his fair share of violence. But it's only as an adult, that he's begun to consider the true magnitude of such imagery especially in the postmodern cycle of irony-laced films.
"Now I find it hard to watch movies like Kill Bill where the violence is so cartoonish," he says. "I see that as more dangerous. Because it's so outlandish, it's easy to dismiss it as just fun."
Weik has had to acknowledge the conundrum that when you show such things, you run the risk of sensationalizing them.
"If you're trying to make a statement about something, in the end you might end up promoting it," he shrugs.
Experimental filmmaker Trinh Minh-ha has somehow managed to bridge the contentious, never-the-twain-shall-meet worlds of film academia and movie making in her long-standing career as a filmmaker and theoretician. The Berkeley-based artist has made films about African villagers, Vietnamese women caught up in war, and most recently about the tension between tradition and modernity in Japan in the exquisite The Fourth Dimension. On May 13 Trinh will appear at Emory to discuss her work as part of the Art Papers Live! lecture series (www.artpapers.org).
Now in flight
"Cavernous" seems too diminished a word to describe the new 24,000-square-foot Mason Murer Fine Art gallery/airplane hangar (www.masonmurer.com). The latest project of Modern Primitive owner Mark Karelson, the space is currently showcasing more than 32 artists. Especially notable are the artists featured in an exhibition of Spelman and Morehouse students. Spelman's Tiffany Pierce makes heartfelt work about attending that citadel of African-American privilege in the midst of the West End's squalor. Pierce's poignant appraisal of homelessness suggests someone beginning life's journey, considering all the sad possibilities of people at their bitter end. Also memorable are Jamie Swift's poetic black-and-white altered photographs incorporating family photos recontextualized with contemporary landscapes.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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