The Happiest People on Earth
April 28, 2017 —
June 15, 2017
Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to present Rosson Crow's fourth exhibition with the gallery, The Happiest People on Earth. A reception will be held at the gallery on April 28, 2017 from 6–8pm, and the exhibition will remain on view through June 15.
Rosson Crow's new paintings depict the search for off-the-grid freedom in the American West. Building from her explorations of the psychology of nationalism and conspiracy in American history, Crow has moved away from the surreal interiors she's known for to a new terrain and a new timeframe: desert landscapes set in a future overwhelmed by the refuse of the paranoid present. Littered among giant, brightly hued cacti, objects from the worlds of fringe cults and right wing conspiracy grapple for our attention. Without depicting any people associated with these groups, they are felt as a presence through what they've left behind.
Copies of The National Enquirer; a handmade sign declaring, "This Community is Protected by Smith & Wesson"; bumper stickers representing crude commercial slogans slapped on the surfaces of painted Native American ceramics; and stacks of beer cans representing "hillbilly" brands like Gilley's or Billy Beer (the beer company promoted by Jimmy Carter's brother Billy Carter) clog the landscape. Crow sourced this imagery from her archive of snapshots taken during road trips, vintage postcards and memorabilia, and pin up posters, as well as the Internet. Collectively, these images represent the dark side of Manifest Destiny pushed beyond reason.
Produced in the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Crow's desert is choked with natural and man-made iconography to the point of visual excess. At first glance the layers of color and line suggest abstraction. For Crow, this approach to depicting the desert as dense rather than empty reflects a recent turn in the national psyche. Once relegated to the margins of society, the voice of conspiracy is growing beyond its roots into the mainstream, all the way up to the Oval Office. In Crow's words, "We live in a time with alternative facts, fake news and distorted realities, a time when reality ceases to be real, and no one trusts anything or anyone, especially their own government." The aggressive, anxious, and vaguely post-apocalyptic mood she conjures in her new paintings suggests that this spread of conspiracy culture beyond the fringe could be perilous.
As with much of her recent work, Crow's process involves a photo transfer technique in which she intentionally invites "mistakes" such as doublings of imagery or imperfect alignments between sections of images. Crow combines her transfer process with expressive gestures in oil paint, creating both immediacy and harmony in the energetic compositions. Automated processes intersect with the human hand, mirroring Crow's landscapes in which the man-made intersects with the natural. The resulting works are a cinematic turn on the tradition of large-scale history painting in which a chaos of imagery is controlled to an unnerving stillness.
Rosson Crow was born in 1982 in Dallas, Texas and lives in Los Angeles. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in 2004 and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 2006. Honor Fraser Gallery has presented three previous exhibitions of her work: Madame Psychosis Holds a Séance (2015); Ballyhoo Hullabaloo Haboob (2012); and Night at the Palomino (2008). One-person exhibitions of her work have been presented at Musée Régional d'Art Contemporain de Sérignan, France (2014); Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH (2010); and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Forth Worth, TX (2009). Her work has been included in thematic exhibitions such as Contemporary Magic: A Tarot Deck Art Project, The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA (2011); Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2010); Le Meilleur des Mondes, Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, France (2010); New York Minute, Macro Future Museum, Rome, Italy (2009); and Out of Storage I: Painters Choose from the Collection, Musée d'Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg, France (2008).