“Trumps Wall” by Wayne Ferguson, 2019
Years of Chaos- Issues That Are Destroying Us
Review by Keith Waits
Entire contents are copyright © 2019, by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.
In an overtly political art exhibit, Kore Gallery has opened their new space in the Hope Mills building with an exhibit about the Years of Chaos – Issues That Are Destroying Us. To no one’s surprise, it is filled with several in-your-face images that function as fine art political cartoons, scabrous caricatures of current but destined to go down as the worst President in US history Donald Trump.
Not surprisingly, there is a preponderance of work expressing a vehemently anti-Trump perspective, and the exhibit makes no pretense to providing a balanced point-of-view of American politics; most of this work is fueled by anger and outrage and wastes no time with delicacy. John Chu’s “MAGA” places a caricature of Trump behind bars. He’s more subtle with “Do U”, which inscribes the provocative phrase from Melania Trump’s coat, “I don’t really care, Do U?” across the bottom of a facsimile of the American flag, although the placement of a gold hammer and cycle in the field of stare is a blunt connotation of the controversial relationship between Russia and the 45th President.
In the very center of all of this is “Trump’s Wall”, an epic yet diminutive, tabletop installation that captures much of the absurdity of the border wall controversy. Its author, Wayne Ferguson, is well-known for his clay caricatures of Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin that are, in effect, three-dimensional political cartoons, and in that vein, we might view this complex, 360-degree tableau as his masterpiece.
Ferguson constructs a barricade of inscribed ceramic bricks and then surrounds it with potted succulents, devotional candles, and skeletons that bear an uneasy relationship with an assortment of vultures perched along the top. The morbidly comic sensibility on display here is satirically blunt but also layered.
“June 16, 1967” by Kent Epler is one of several pieces that deliberately reach back to a time when protest changed the world. The archetypal peace-loving hippie belongs squarely in the Summer of Love except for her sign about President Nixon positions her in 2019. The sense of fun is balanced against the underlying call to arms.
The placement of paintings from Debra Lott and Tom Cannady might seem out-of-place amidst all of the harsh political critiques. Lott’s work speaks to women moving through the trauma of emotional abuse, an unfortunately timeless subject that nevertheless resonates more profoundly in the era of Me Too and Times Up, while Cannady’s sunny mid-20th century images point to the delusion of nostalgia that undermines the integrity of the Make American Great Again slogan.
Sabra Crockett’s “Pussy Dentata” references the now infamous tape of then-private citizen Trump’s tasteless and abhorrent misogyny with an image of a wild feline hosting more than its share of sharp teeth. The mouth opened wide – the better to clamp down on any hand that attempts to “grab” it. The allusion to the folk tale of vagina dentata and the nightmarish specter of castration from intercourse seems like the ultimate revenge fantasy for American women who marched in Washington two years ago.
For all the caustic commentary, there is a sense of exuberance in most of the work on exhibit here, an undeniable joy in the opportunity to cut loose with unfettered political expression. It must be profoundly cathartic for both artist and audience, but what about the destruction highlighted in the exhibit title? How have the years of chaos changed us?
In striking contrast to most of her previous work Clare Hirn’s “Yours While Supplies Last” is a surprisingly cynical consideration of where humanity finds itself at this moment: out of step with our environment, and more a blight on the earth’s surface than the pre-ordained inheritors of its grace. It is arguably the most disturbing measure of the current political condition that an artist who is usually given to expressions of hope and confidence in nature’s ability to find balance has here turned so pessimistic.
The exhibit features over 30 artists, more than can be reasonably examined in this space, but it is a bold, diverse collection, selected with an eye for liberal populism.
Years of Chaos- Issues That Are Destroying Us
February 2 – March 3, 2019
942 East Kentucky Street
Louisville, KY 40204
Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of LVA’s Artebella On The Radio on WXOX 97.1 FM / ARTxFM.com, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music and visual arts. His work has appeared in Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for Arts-Louisville.com.
2019 Arts-Louisville/Broadway World Theatre Award Sponsorship provided by