Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Rural America Contemporary Artists: Making Nowhere into Somewhere, Making A Statement

from the Recalcitrant Mimesis installation at the David B. Smith Gallery, Denver; Liz Miller

[Today we are excited to present Brian Frink's curator's statement to the Rural America Contemporary Art show alongside work from the artists included in this exhibit. Please visit the RACA Facebook group for more information, as well as the artist's sites, where larger, high-resolution images are available for viewing.]

Rural America Contemporary Art (RACA) started as a Facebook group.  The idea was to create a forum, a virtual place, where rural artists could connect, share work and promote their various activities.  The name of the group implies a certain irony.  The words “contemporary” and “rural” are not always seen as equivalent concepts.  For a long time progressive ideas moved from urban areas to rural areas.  In early and mid-twentieth century America the term “regionalism” was applied to artists that did not live in urban centers such as New York City.  For many artists the term was a disparaging label.   It usually meant, “behind the times.” 

Archival Structure Five installation, 4Real4Faux exhibit, Truman State University; David Hamlow

Population density in urban areas contributed to this.  More people living in close proximity promoted a rapid exchange of ideas, attitudes, styles and fashions.  The result was innovation based on the mutations these exchanges fostered.  Rural areas are less dense having less frequent random interactions.  So the classic model of innovation in visual art is, progressive ideas form in urban centers of culture then migrate out to rural communities.

Corpus Corvus Corrallary, cast iron, scale model accessories, scenery and pigment; Karl Unnasch

More recently economics, population growth and the advancement of university art education have brought many serious artists to live in rural communities.  The cost of setting up a studio in urban areas has become prohibitive.  The numbers of individuals who define themselves as artists has exploded.  University art departments are now prevalent in even the smallest rural community across America.  These factors have contributed to the incredible growth of rural contemporary art.

Blazer, pencil on paper, 22" x 30"; Brian Frink

Yet, culturally speaking, we still function under the old notion that progressive innovation comes from urban areas migrating outward to rural communities. 

I believe the web and social media has changed this dynamic. 

furnace (first painting of the year), acrylic on panel, 36"  x 24"; Benjamin Gardner

I would like to propose that social media platforms like Facebook allows for a level of interaction and cross-pollination of ideas that might be similar to living in an urban environment.   Trends or theories that in previous generations would have taken years to migrate are now accessed instantly.  For an artist living in relative isolation, there is power in this new dynamic. 

prelude to a claptrap/prussian field, oil on birch, 61" x 97"; Andrew Nordin

These contributing factors may be creating a new paradigm.  A new paradigm where the previous model no longer applies.  Progressive, contemporary ideas, trends and fashions can now move from rural to urban areas.  Artists can live in rural areas and still be progressive and innovative.
Seeking Shelter lightbox 23" x 33"; Erik Waterkotte

RACA’s slogan is “Making nowhere into somewhere.”  Of course this motto is also a wry commentary on the fact that those who live in rural America already know it is “somewhere.” So part of the RACA mission is to connect, highlight and validate the immense community of artists that has always sought the solace, inspiration and beauty of rural America.  It is also RACA’s mission to assert that the art made by rural artists is relevant.

held within what hung open and made to lie without escape installation; Gregory Euclide

This first exhibition, curated by the Institute for Rural America Contemporary Art, exemplifies what is going on in our tiny corner of rural America.  The artists collected here are not just creating work that echoes what they see in New York or Los Angeles.  These artists struggle to make highly original and innovative work.  They view themselves as equal voices with their urban peers.  Cognizant and dynamic, their work speculates on the paradoxical nature of life in twenty-first century America.  These artists are Rural America Contemporary Art.   

Brian Frink
Institute for Rural America Contemporary Art

Horizon/Marks #2, mixed media on paper; Lisa Bergh