Dark Times 2017

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Joseph Ayers is an artist, curator and educator living in Beacon, NY. In his work, Ayers uses a combination of traditional media and new technology to explore both connections and disparity between cultural and psychological perceptions. The subjects in his work vary from personal, to political, often creating abstract narratives between diverse and disparate elements. Currently Ayers teaches courses in both traditional and digital media at Parsons The New School in New York, New York. In addition to teaching, Ayers is cofounder and contributor to TEAM project with artist Aya Uekawa, and is part of a curatorial collective with artist and curator Isaac Aden. Ayers grew up in a rural area on the Gulf Coast of Florida. After 5 years in the US Air Force Ayers earned a Bachelor’s of Art at the University of New Orleans, and then his Masters Degree in Fine Arts from Hunter College City University of New York.

Red Rain Ravens (right)

acrylic and housepaint on plywood

OCTOBER 14 - NOVEMBER 5, 2017 TheoGanz Studio 149 MAIN STREET BEACON, NY



is a group of works that reflect on current cultural, political and psychological landscapes. Through a variety of mediums, associations between time and space are explored. From the Trumpian orders, to Duchampian sordid, from the shady southern oaks, to the desolate scarred moonscape; each intersecting sample of time reveals a perplex perspective on the present conditions that govern our lives. Both personal and detached, the exhibition considers the crux between a sustainable future, and the overwhelming convergence of an era on the cusp of end times. LIST OF CHARACTERS: First American Descending the Stairs King in the Empty Throne Trump and the Given Red Rain Ravens Hidden Ruse Hudson Moon Renaissance Helicopter (space station) Suspended Ampoule 50 cc of paris air Stairs to an Empty Room Memorial to America Suspended Ampoule 50 cc Paris Air (left) white charcoal on illustration board, 2 finishing nails

Preamble This exhibition is a collection of sketches and small projects that I’ve worked on over the past couple years. I approach each idea and object as a unique exploration of materials and processes, combining some form of both analogue and digital media. Through the work I meditate on, and raise questions about, human perception and its relationship to the natural order of things. As an artist and teacher my work explores both ends of this spectrum, and I am devoted to keeping the old languages of art alive, but at the same time explore new technology as a tool of learning, interpretation and discovery. The exhibition reflects a back-and-forth conversation between an inner dialogue, found objects and artifacts, and imagined imagery and digital composites. My goal with this booklette is to let my words and thoughts somehow mirror the abstract and complex conversation between the disparate works, attempting to bring them together into a singular abstract narrative. Empty Throne (left) The Given (right)

I will be honest and say that I don’t know if my work is important, now, or in the future. I often feel like the work created by my students and peers is more engaging and relevant, and so I devote much of my time to working with other artists and curators in efforts to organize engaging exhibitions that bring their work into a larger, cohesive dialogue. My own work can feel disjointed and inconsistent at times. Yet, despite a lack of formal clarity, I consistently use art making as a tool of interpretation, to raise questions about universal and cultural perceptions, and as a way of exploring and documenting evidence of my sentient experience. The majority of my time and energy goes into my teaching career, but whenever I do have windows of time and space to work, I attempt to use my artistic sensibilities and perspective as a means to distill some semblance of clarity within the dense amass of information that I experience. We are all living in the same chaotic, turbulent world, stricken with the real-time prospects of limited resources, instability, war, human oppression and global disasters. Like many artists, I use my personal language and voice to sort out, and make sense of the world around me, and in doing so I discover the politics in my work through the experience and process of making it. Art historically, I make associations with the century old work of surrealist and Dada artists, and feel a kinship with their mixed media approaches that question not only the conventions of art-making, but also their resistance to borders and dictators that enshrine power at the cost of life and liberty. Existence is unstable, full of contradiction and tension, and the short time I have to spend making artwork offers some solace and refuge from the chaos around me, however near it draws me to the crux that plagues us on the brink of insanity. As one of my favorite artists famously said ‘making art is a guarantee of sanity.’ ~Louise Bourgeois Memorial to America (right) painted trianglurar wood scrap found near Whitney Museum and painted stump found in father’s workshop. 2017

I mention that the work reflects on cultural, political and psychological landscapes. To briefly expand on this, I will try to first describe my perspective. I see all relationships in the field of perception as part of an energy ecosystem; a vast intertwined landscape that includes a matrix of natural order, and human perception, invention, intervention and disorder. This has, in our current milieu, culminated in an all-out war between those serving to save themselves, and those hinged on serving the survival of the planet’s equilibrium. It is a war that underlies all others, and its outcome will be the crux of our survival. I believe in deep human empathy, and in my work and life I attempt to develop a connection to various forms of consciousness. I perceive all life and objects in existence as having various levels of consciousness, and in attempts to understand the tribulations we face as individuals, collective families, cultural entities, and global inhabitants, I reflect, through various mediums and subjects, on the perceptual and psychological frontiers that I experience. The political in the work is two-fold: as I already suggested, it is an exploration of alternate ways of making and perceiving art work, defying in many ways traditional, conventional, or mainstream methods of representation and aesthetic experience. This, I believe, comes from a desire to expand the perceptions of space and time, and liberate, by small degrees, our collective awareness of the relationships between materiality and, for lack of a better word, collective spirit. This desire within me is an instinctive act of protest and defiance toward conventions, yet it’s also an effort to unite percieved differences. Both Leonardo Da Vinci and Marcel Duchamp, some 400 years apart, both said something to the effect that the greatest deception that men suffer is from their own opinions. I attempt to let go of my opinions in order to see the world from multiple perspectives. Rather than seeing differences, I try to percieve a world that exists as a living whole. My ideas usually culminate into some form of drawing, though I also explore video, digital media and painting processes, and experiment with combining various media without privileging any of them. My goal is to use art making as a way of addressing multiple narratives at once, without explicitly focusing on any one subject. In my mind, the self-reflexive investigation of materials and media attempts to question our cultural perceptions, and the manifestations of psychological landscapes that are imbued with thousands of years of collective memory, experience and evolution. Hidden Ruse, detail (right)

The second aspect of the political in this exhibition is more direct with its representations of Trump, female figures and American flags, and loosely gravitates around how we, as a culture, and also a species, treat women, and how a history of power, oppression and abuse is repeated in most cultures since the dawn of man. The power that is held by men, and their fear and abuse of women, fuel the source and scourge of this epic reign of terror that has held fast for millennia. The current overarching powers and self-gratifying tyrants are shameless with exploits and agendas around the world, and current American politics and democracy are part of this shame. What we are witnessing is the threshold of a new era of tyranny, brought on by the age-old repressive behavior of fear mongering and loathsome cowards. In the exhibition, allusions to those tyrants, and the symbols of their power, are juxtaposed with disfigured female spirits that haunt the organic and natural order of material existence. I believe that the diversity in my work enables a freedom to talk about several things at once. As an artist, my job is to raise questions in hopes that others can tune into my language and project their own experiences and interpretations onto the works. By combining disparate elements in this way I am raising questions about the limits and freedoms of art. I am also exploring questions about how we perceive ourselves, and our future. In the following excerpt from an artist talk, I briefly describe formal qualities and fragmented ideas behind some of these works, in a free flowing stream of thoughts that attempt to bring together key elements in the exhibition. Please begin to think of each work as a character that is engaged in an estranged, yet intersecting dialogue. The complexity in my exposition is intended to mirror the perplexity in the exhibition. The Given (right)

Descriptions of works: CHAPTER 1 She is called the first American, I read about her in the centerfold of a National Geographic. She dates back some 13K years ago, and her skeleton was retrieved from the bottom of a deep underground ravine. The time and location of the find upturned previous narratives that have been created to explain human migration patterns into the new world. This seems to happen every time a new find is found, or each time we dig deeper. She was found later, here, too, watching the moon on the banks of the Hudson River long before the Dutch exploited her and her sisters. In those times, survival was bleak, and existence was dark. As we all know, clans of early humans were dominated by abrasive, abusive and violent men, and women were kept as slaves and their remains often show signs of physical abuse. The First American (diptich)

Little to nothing is known, or spoken of, regarding the mental and emotional state of these women. We often hear that early humans were psychologically wired ‘differently’ than modern humans, but I feel that it’s important to keep in perspective the collective impulse and desire of a species that is resilient to survival, and the role of these women, vigilant throughout the ages, to sustain our existence. In this somewhat perverted composition, the first American is seen, much later, thousands of years into the future, with severed hand, in the endless corridors, wombs and catacombs of time, stalked by the likes of a Toni Matelli sculpture that currently, eternally, stalks naked, sleepwalking, on the campus of the all-girls Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

CHAPTER 2 And her father, the king, sitting in his Empty Throne, with the weight of this scene, he manages to assail, weightless, transparent, on the heavy slab of locally milled Black Walnut. He listens, but doesn’t speak. He wants to get up, but there is nothing to support him. He wants to see, but he cannot open his eyes. He wants to feel, but the substrate is subsuming and consuming him. Everything feels flat and hard. There is nothing to rule in his ecstasy, and there is little to tether him to these walls.

still from Hidden Ruse

And his Janus, his nemesis, her captor, the dark king, laments nothing, he is voracious, detestable, a dark lord rendered in white charcoal on black illustration board. After the battle of evermore, face turning red, signing a pact, a declaration of indifference, a selfish treaty, a hidden ruse, and quite possibly the biggest real estate deal in history. This is the face‌ and this, and this, and evermore, empty, vacant, watchful eyes. This is the headless female, found again, deep in the ravine of Duchamp’s imagination this time.

CHAPTER 3 She is indifferent to the men that surround her, to the slab that they use to dissect and autograph each order that sends her, again and again, into the trench. The king is indifferent to her silent murmuring. And closest to witnessing the crime, the hung Vice President, illuminated by the gas lamp alongside the old southern oaks that bend to the ground to be used, by degree, for various forms of torture. Hanging human heads are torture to the living eyes of the hangman’s peers. Their glowing white faces peer from darkness, watching in various degrees of distaste and satisfaction. And here again, the King, ruling against dissension, ruling in favor of violence, ruling to over rule, and over-ruling a reality, flat and hard, as it subsumes him consuming the first American. Making her great again, and again, and again, laid bare, slain here as the whole world watches. Hidden Ruse (left) Suspended Ampoule 50cc of Paris Air (right top) detail from Given (right middle) Red Rain Ravens (right bottom)

CHAPTER 4 And to escape, on the moon we make for plans of another kind, where the renaissance of technology turns the imagination of the past, Da Vinci’s helicopter orbiting in space, watching the earth from a distant cold cage, deep into the future narratives of space and time unfolding, stretching and retiming, in real time, the construction of elaborate structures, matrix of protection, of stability, of sustainability, of cold and quiet serenity; a sanctuary from the chaos that is seen both above and below the slower movement, the gravity of perceptions, skin and eyes pulling toward light, rolling mountains and time that slopes inward, to those underground ravines where ravaged and sought after women raged, and resisted a pain that some perceive as self inflicted. The hapless fools, trumpian ghouls, stairs to hell that spiral to a trivial, Escher-like horizon, an event that lays to rest, memorializes, all of her grief and pain. That unveils the pocked surface of a dead planet, red rain, a glass ampoule of paris air, and a fallen angel drifting in deep space. I watch this and more from my wire cage, a matrix of lies and illusions that look to negate the look, the gaze, the perception itself, annihilating all of time and space. Renaissance Helicopter (left) Hudson Moon (right)

List of Characters Untitled (the first American) graphite on 2 panels overall dimensions 12 x 32 inches

Nude Descending Stairs acrylic on composite wood on 3 blocks overall dimensions 58 x 13 x 14 inches

Empty Throne acrylic on Black Walnut 57 x 23 inches

Untitled (Given) white charcoal on 9 black illustration boards overall dimensions 63 x 48 inches

Red Rain Ravens acrylic on plywood 20 x 16 inches

Hidden Ruse Hologram pyramid, video, ipad acrylic on pine box overall dimensions 64 x 11.5 x 13 inches

Hudson Moon white charcoal on 12 black illustration boards overall dimensions 63.5 x 64 inches

Untitled (Rennaisance Helicopter) acrylic on wood panel overall dimensions inches 72.5 x 17 x 9 inches

Suspended Ampoule (50 cc of paris air) white charcoal on black illustration board 20 x 15 inches

Spare Room acrylic and stain on cherry panel 31x 48 inches

Black Stairs and Untitled (box) Stairs: acrylic on 3 blocks, 21.5 x 7 x 6 Untitled (box): 10 x 8 x 8 inches

Memorial acrylic on found stump and counter top overall dimensions 27 x 22 x 11 inches

an artdiversity.com publication Copyright 2017

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