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The Almost Metal Collective J A N U A R Y 10 – F E B R U A R Y 16 , 2 013 Curated by David Jones / Anchor Graphics

The Almost Metal Collective

In The Reenchantment of Art, Suzi Gablik writes, “What happens to a culture without a living mythology is that it gets addicted to whatever numbs the pain of archetypal starvation and the vacuum of meaning.”1 In this exhibition, The Almost Metal Collective, we have a loose-knit group of artists whose members are: Krista Hoefle, Jason Lahr, Sheilah Wilson, Rudy Shepherd, and founding members of the Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts (ILSSA) Bridget Elmer and Emily Larned. Through their various practices, a cacophony of images and meanings is made manifest. Their activities are directed by a personal inner commitment to expression, artistry, and inspiration utilizing ideas, experience and various technologies to create their highly individualistic pieces. The Almost Metal Collective exhibition was initiated out of the desire to create something spontaneous and transformative, turning the gallery into an environment conducive for both contemplation and exploration. “What ties these artists together is that they are invoking the audience through performance, process, and narrative. They are attempting in their various ways to make sense of personal identity as it is impacted by cultural and social influences. In the works that employ photographic (or other) performance documentation (Sheilah Wilson and Rudy Shepherd, ILSSA), the camera or other documentation device becomes an avatar for the audience. Objects in the exhibition (Krista’s, Rudy’s and ILSSA) act as ‘bread crumbs’ that the audience can follow towards participatory events—or the act of following these bread crumbs is the participatory event. Dislocated images or imagery (Jason’s work, the exhibition as a whole) requires the audience to piece together meaning or narrative for themselves from a closed set. As such, the audience becomes participatory and contingent in our works in a variety of ways, through our diverse working methods and aesthetic approaches. As artists, we’re calling the audience forth through aesthetic incantation. We’re conjuring the audience into action, not through any overarching political rationale or directed manifesto, but rather as aesthetic guides/mediums.”2 This work has been created out of a desire to make things for the love of making. The participating artists come from very diverse backgrounds, and their working methods are just as varied. “I love gadgets and gizmos, but I hate directions,” says Krista Hoefle, an associate professor of art at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana. “When I’m teaching a particular technical process, I’ll show students the ‘proper’ way, but if that way isn’t working out for them, we’ll adapt, experiment, and uncover a new and inventive way of working.”3 Play enters into the work; there has to be a willingness to be surprised by the burps of technology and the happy accidents that result. But all is not entirely fun and games; Krista Hoefle has created fictional characters who explore cyborg identity. She uses electronic objects, prints, video, and large humanoid figures fashioned out of large screen-prints on paper, as well as Poser-based digital (3D) “zombie-pose” figures, which are digitally unfolded using Pepakura Designer. Ms. Hoefle created a course at St Mary’s College called “Cyberfeminism_Creativity_Connectivity,” in which Hoefle discusses gender roles in gaming as well as in film and literature.4 Fittingly, Hoefle’s Respawn consists of paper sculptures based on her online roleplaying game World of Warcraft character Kryzzik, a Mage Goblin.

Krista Hoefle Intelligent Agent, 2012 video performance. Head sculptures fabricated using blender, Pepakura Designer, and printed on paper

Suzi Gablik, The Renchantment of Art, (New York, Thames and Hudson Press 1991), 51 Krista Hoefle. (2012) 3 Krista Hoefle, About Me, (2012) 4 Krista Hoefle, Ibid



Jason Lahr’s work can be jarring, unnerving and humorous at the same time. To put it mildly, it’s like putting your eyeballs in a blender, clicking the setting to purée, then pouring them back into your head and looking at the paintings anew. Lahr takes statements out of context and juxtaposes them with abstracted, pixel-like forms, pop era drips, blobs and other visual references then paints them alongside heavy metal band logos and other cultural signifiers. “The old man grinned from behind the counter;” “Damn you just don’t see that everyday;” “She bit her lip and thought to herself, Buddy you have no idea…” and other phrases in Lahr’s paintings could have been taken from a dime store novel or TV dialogue, or overheard on a train or while waiting in line at the grocery store. Shapes and forms are juxtaposed with high-key colors along with rectangles and squares, much akin to the pixilation you might see while watching cable when the picture starts to lose its signal. Lahr’s paintings take pop culture motifs and dare to update his work with images taken from contemporary culture, with its signifiers and references to the digital age intact. Lahr states: “The images are pulled from a wide range of popular and sub-cultural ephemera while the texts are fragments that suggest their excision from a larger story, and give the reader/ viewer flashbulb glimpses at moments of narrative action.” He plucks and pulls from the traditions of narrative painting but propels the work into a world built from Generation X symbols with pop references; as Jason says, he works “like a vulture picking through a mountain of cultural detritus. Centering on female characters who occupy positions of authority and male characters who are injured, inept, defeated, or perplexed by their dealings with women, the texts and images combine to form narratives which question the wash of expectations and assumptions we experience and create through popular culture.”5 Jason Lahr received his M.F.A. in drawing and painting from Penn State University and his B.F.A. in painting from Clarion University. Since 2004, he has been represented by Packer Schopf Gallery in Chicago.

To put it mildly, it’s like putting your eyeballs in a blender, clicking the setting to purée, then pouring them back into your head and looking at the paintings anew.

ABOVE: Jason Lahr Hole in the Sky, 2011 oil & acrylic on canvas over panel 60 x 45 inches RIGHT: Jason Lahr Signal Jammer, 2012 oil and acrylic on panel 20 x 18 inches

Sheilah Wilson and Rudy Shepherd embody the shaman and the oracle, mining the rich field of the unconscious, both creating work that blends the physical with the ethereal. They use contemporary recording technology to document events in attempts to capture the spirit. Sheilah Wilson “acts as liminal ethnographer—adding, deleting and imprinting as the unconscious image/ experience is translated into a photograph. First, the line drawn by the participant is traced onto Mylar and then exposed onto black and white fiber paper. The resulting image exists as a thin line of white on black. This line holds body to experience, memory to desire for memory, the possibility for one experience to mirror, and yet be different, from another. I act as the medium through which the verbal story passes as well, transcribing the recorded stories into text, then hand-deleting most sections to create a mirror of areas of black; sections where the body rejoins the mind are left visible.”6 Wilson uses photography,

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Jason Lahr, (2012) Sheilah Wilson, (2012)

Sheilah Wilson A Line Drawn Continuously and Without Looking While You Tell Your Out of Body Experience, 2012 digital prints on fiber paper 20 x 24 inches each

video and text as a performative and documentary tool in her attempts to pick through the seams of narrative and image. Her Memory Translation Machine further explores the ideas of memory, the body, and imprinting directly onto the photographic paper medium. “In this body of work, I have taken memories submitted and then slept directly on the printed memory and a roll of color film. After a night’s sleep, the color film is processed. The resulting light leaks and color variations are the result of memories as translated through sleep.”7 “This body of work further investigates the role of performance in photography, using the early spiritualist photography as a starting point. Spiritualism in the late 19th and early 20th century used the medium of the body to try and communicate with otherworldly presences. The photograph was tangible proof that the spirit had passed through the body of the medium, been translated and become material again. This is an intriguing way of subverting the ‘truth factor’ of photography to yield a tenuous bind between the image and the afterworld, or in Wilson’s case, memory, photograph and the body.”8 Wilson creates an aesthetic based on paradox and disparate themes to find her voice and speak through lines of memory. With her marks and photographs, she occupies the place of dreams, that hallucinogenic place just before you nod off, where dreams and reality mingle and one is hard pressed to discern what is what. Wilson’s work is a conscious effort to explore that place where the unconscious thoughts and dreams mingle with the known world. The artist acts as interpreter and seer.

Rudy Shepherd’s The Healer looks to the clouds and embodies a divine character; absorbing negative energy is his burden and task. There is no hectic pace of consumption, no frantic rush to meetings or appointments—rather, an intentional effort to heal, to allow the blackness to absorb rather than reflect, to be that outcast who walks against normative behavior and says, “I will heal by my presence, my blackness, my difference.” Blackness becomes a positive metaphor for absorbing the negative and harmful energies and hopefully emanating positive or healing energy in return. He is currently represented by Mixed Greens Gallery, NY.

artists in The Almost Metal Collective exhibition are addressing their various realities in ways which allow them to be participants rather than observers. They are taking dreams, memories, turning water to vapor and then back again, using Blackness to absorb energy with an uncanny ability to tune the frequency to absorb only the negative, and emit healing energy. Each one of these artists has created a role for him/herself to address the mysteries of his or her time. They have each in their own way broken the spell of disenchantment, and are creating new myths and stories which will create space for reflection, laughter, and healing.

Finally, there are the local shops of the ILSSA, a membership organization for those who make experimental or conceptual work with obsolete technology (AS MANY HOURS AS IT TAKES!) The goals of ILSSA include: (1) the establishment of a Union to foster community, solidarity, and peer review; and (2) the formation of a Research Institute to support new ideas, communications, and resources.

—David Jones is the Founder and Director of Anchor Graphics. Raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he moved to the Midwest to pursue studies in photography and printmaking. He attended the Center for Photographic Studies, Louisville; Banff Centre for the Arts; the Vancouver School of Art; received his BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute, and is currently pursuing his MFA at Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts. He has taught printmaking at the Chicago Art Institute, Columbia College Chicago and MIAD. Jones serves on the Advisory Board of the Highpoint Center for Printmaking, Minneapolis and the Board of Directors of Southern Graphics Council International. He was Interim Director at the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, NYC, prior to moving Anchor Graphics to Columbia College in 2006.

“Impractical Labor is a protest against contemporary industrial practices and values. Instead it favors independent workshop production by antiquated means and in relatively limited quantities. Economy of scale goes out the window, as does the myth that time must equal money. Impractical Labor seeks to restore the relationship between a maker and her tools; a maker and her time; a maker and what she makes. The process is the end, not the product. Impractical Labor is idealized labor: the labor of love.”9 Throughout history there have been individuals who define their time, and strive to put the work that they create in the context of that time. The

Sheilah Wilson, Ibid Sheilah Wilson, Ibid 9 ILSSA, (2012)



ILSSA State of the ILSSA Union, 2012 installation view dimensions variable

ILSSA State of the ILSSA Union, 2012 works on paper dimensions variable

As artists, we’re calling the audience forth through aesthetic incantation.

Rudy Shepherd The Healer Emerges, 2012 3 channel video

ILSSA State of the ILSSA Union, 2012 installation view dimensions variable

A+D ar t








11AM – 5PM

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS 60605 312 369 8687



11AM – 8PM

Krista Hoefle Sheilah Wilson Jason Lahr Rudy Shepherd Local shops of the ILSSA (Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts)

This exhibition is sponsored by the Art + Design Department at Columbia College Chicago and Anchor Graphics. This exhibition is partially supported by an Illinois Arts Council Grant, a state agency.

F RO N T COVER ART WORK: Sheilah Wilson Memory Translation Machine, 2011 inkjet print, 42 x 42 inches


BA C K C OVER ART WORK: Krista Hoefle Respawn, 2012 screenprint on paper site-specific installation; dimensions variable