As a young Black man who has grown up in the lower class, I have seen and witnessed too much violence, poverty and corruption. All my life Iâ€™ve been surrounded by the horrors of gang violence, under-funded public school institutions, racial discrimination, and I have been met with institutional indifference. This is why I became an artist. These issues started to define my life and art gave me the opportunity to redefine it. I was one of the lucky ones who had a mother who wanted more for me and put me in situations where I was able to have opportunities that showed me there was more to life than the negatives that all too often defined the life of black people in contemporary society. Most people within our culture arenâ€™t so lucky and live their whole lives believing that there is nothing beyond a world of violence and systematic failure, making it more important for me to create a voice for those who have been silenced. As an artist I want my audience punctured by what they have experienced, leaving them with a feeling of connection and conversation with a world that may not be familiar.
Aaron Fowler + Michael Shultis
September 2013, Thierry Goldberg Gallery
Thierry Goldberg Gallery is pleased to announce the first New York exhibition of Aaron Fowler and Michael Shultis, a two-person show with a group of new paintings by each artist and a series made in collaboration between the two.
Using a vast array of collaged materials on wood panels, Aaron Fowler presents a series of pirate paintings that is loosely based on his experience growing up in St. Louis, MO. In â€śDisloyal,â€ť for instance, he assembled materials like house paint, found scraps of wood, and fabric, to depict a pirate scene that follows a true story involving a cousin who was robbed at gunpoint by a friend. The way that the fictional drama of the painting transgresses into the real (and vise versa) is replicated in his other works. In â€śUntitled,â€ť the story literally trespasses into the viewerâ€™s world, where an actual plank has been stuck through the panel, as if tempting the viewer to walk down it, following what remains of dark footsteps, to meet a similar fate.
Equally dramatic and vibrant are Michael Shultisâ€™ series of pillow fight scenes. The mixed media panels are comprised of materials as diverse as oil paint, plastic flowers, gloss photographs, bathroom rugs, vinyl, holograms, and shopping bags, as well as the artistâ€™s own dirty socks, hair and feathers from pillows he owns. In â€śGee Wiz,â€ť six female figures engage in a pillow fight amidst a vivid blue background painted with cartoony clouds and a smiley-face sun. All six figures seem to be involved in a kind of game â€“ one tinged by violent undertones (one womanâ€™s mouth and nose is covered in blood) as well as sexual ones (with midriffs and cleavage apparent). Similarly, in â€śKool Beans,â€ť the body once more appears to be held hostage by fabric and surfaces, where familiar cultural signifiers like Lacoste tags and barbwire tattoos abound. Viewers find themselves standing before a kaleidoscope of bright pink limbs, distorted appearances, and elaborate patterns.
One Million Years of Painting: Temporality and Monumentality in the Paintings of Aaron Fowler
February 27th 2012, by Manya Scheps, Title Magazine
Time has an eerie presence in the paintings of Aaron Fowler, a fourth year PAFA BFA student and native of St. Louis. Punctuated by glints of brands and designers, the works reach back into a narrative of art history and a lifetime of intensely personal moments. Fowler attempts to stop it, all of it, from fading into the forgotten or from moving too quickly into certain self-destruction. His paintings teeter between the two, imposing six feet of layered and splattered explosions, carefully blocked shapes and fields, and stone-flecked spray-painted ground. They feel so hard they might break.
In describing the sculptural work of Dan Flavin and his contemporaries, Robert Smithson writes in his 1966 essay â€śEntropy and the New Monumentsâ€ť that unlike the history-centric monuments of old, new minimalist sculptures â€śseem to cause us to forget the future.â€ť He goes on:
Both past and future are placed into an objective present. This kind of time has little or no space; it is stationary and without movement, it is going nowhere, it is anti-Newtonian, as well as being instant, and is against the wheels of the time-clockâ€¦Time becomes a place minus motion. If time is a place, then innumerable places are possibleâ€¦A million years is contained in a second, yet we tend to forget the second as soon as it happens.
Smithson goes on to postulate that these artistsâ€™ reduction of time annihilated any value of â€śactionâ€ť in art, furthering his discussion of post-industrial culture and the entropic condition of civilization. Though the Primary Structures exhibition that Smithson was referencing is a far stretch from Aaron Fowlerâ€™s studio on the 10th floor of PAFA, the glitching temporality that Smithson identifies is traceable to Fowlerâ€™s approach to representation.