After I designed the Disaster Factor poster, which featured the first use of the title Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, I decided that I wanted to use the gallery at school to show a completely new direction in how I was thinking about art. This included a break from painting, which I had been doing for the past 2 and a half years, exhibiting under a group title, and using a variety of materials to create a new context for both artistic and political/economic critique. I also wanted to create a “total” installation where every part of the gallery was thought about carefully and each element existed in relation to another under one common context.
The idea for the exhibition had to do with the design and construction of a large corporate headquarters in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania for, presumably, the AAPR. I initially started with a few loose ideas which included the building of a small non-descript model of a black corporate building in a wooded landscape with a pedestal, an information desk, a series of geographical engineering plans, a painting on a wall and a video. Something that quickly took shape was the establishment of the black square as a central theme both physically and graphically. I borrowed the black square from minimalism and used it as a tool for a type of cold corporate aesthetic that felt oppressive and empty; I had previously used the black square in paintings to represent a sort of existential unknown, an abstraction that could never be fully known and I was interested in seeing transformed into something new.
A quick explanation of the show. I made the pedestal out of sheetrock which was a huge mistake since it broke apart easily. I made the landscape with railroading grass and trees and I still make my landscapes this way. I made the corporate building out of thin wood that I sanded and sanded and spray painted black. I made the plexi-glass top myself which is something I would never do again. I have a sketch showing that I originally wanted to etch the “AAPR” into the plexi-glass on the sides. I got my hands on an old school desk that I painted white and put INFORMATION across the front of it; I put a series of 3 different business cards on it that had no information on them except Associated Artists for Propaganda Research and 1 of 3 titles in quotes: “specializing in dissident archeology”, “an archetype for future generations” or “specializing in subversive interaction”. I painted ASSOCIATED ARTISTS FOR PROPAGANDA RESEARCH in black letters on the wall behind the desk to make it clear who’s show it was. My roommate was an engineer for landscapers so he gave me the maps that I needed to show where the building was going to take place so I put a series of these on the wall; I also like the idea of using found objects as art (not a new idea but still). I painted a large black square at the farthest wall facing the information desk. I thought of the black square on the wall as a way of degrading the tradition of painting and making it less important and dull.
The last thing I made was a looping 6 hour VHS tape of a field behind my friends house. The summer before I had my exhibition the gallery was renovated beautifully by the Arts Administration which was, I later found out, mainly run by the museum director and the large theater department. They decided to build a large black kiosk that filled the very first window of the gallery which had a digital display and a TV monitor that mainly advertised the theater and other building wide events. It was hideous and an eyesore. As gallery manager, and as part of the Arts Student League, I protested, established a petition, contacted the school paper and we were finally told to stop or we’d loose the gallery. This was a disappointment to me and I learned a little bit about university politics. Come 6 months later and I decided that I was going to use the TV in the kiosk and instead of advertising anything I was going to play something as boring as could be. I thought it was successful as a very passive form of protest. One of the funnier things that I did was to paint a banner for the outside of the gallery that mimicked the fraternity and sorority banners that were hung up. I also used this same graphic for xeroxed stickers that people could take away from the exhibition.
In the end the show looked a little like an architects exhibition which I liked since I was trying to create a new context for art, one that had less to do with art as a singular object and more as art as context and relativity. I wanted to destroy art as I had previously known it which was as a fetishized commodity of spiritual and aesthetic idealization. For me this was a way of disrupting the egotism of art and of trying to enter into both an economical and political dialogue with art. At the time I felt like, since I had been making a certain kind of painting, that I wanted to shake up the expectations of my peers and to free myself up to explore new ways of thinking about art making. I also thought of this show as a testing ground for my thesis show which was also going to involve the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research.
Here are some bad photos of the show. The second image from the bottom was the postcard for the show.