Cliff Evans, Citizen: The Wolf and Nanny, 2009, production still

New Video and Drawings Flaunt Dystopias

Layers characterize work now on view in Denver by video artist Cliff Evans, and muralist-draughtsman Bill Amundson. One working in video, the other in drawing, both communicate that the collapse (of society?) is coming.

Brooklyn-based artist Cliff Evanss exhibit, Citizen is on view at the Myhren Gallery at the University of Denver through February 21. This three-channel HD video installation is made from recognizable images and personalities culled from the Internet and collaged. Its vivid and eye-popping and strikes a chord with the city versus country, utopian versus dystopian cultural commentary found in drawings by Denver artist Bill Amundson.

The two artists from diverse backgrounds explore similar ideas. Perhaps it is the influence of time spent in the West (Evans in Texas, Amundson in Colorado) that provides a common influence of suburban realities and the continued undercurrents of colonialism that still bleed beneath the surface of western states. That, and the loopy highways populated by SUVs.

Cliff Evans, Still from Citizen, 2009. Video capture.

Cliff Evans, still from "Citizen", 2009. Video capture. Courtesy of the artist.

In Evanss videos, vibrant images are taken from the Web and woven together into a montage with animation that re-tells the myth of how the city-state came to be. There is also an exodus narrative where a family is sent out into the wilderness, chased by wolves. In the video the boundaries are distorted through animation. Spoken words loop through the soundtrack: smile, angry, sad, happy, surprised, scared. Imagery also repeats: a naked family, a lone wolf, camping, astronauts, rockets, windmills, green grass, forest, bugs, jets, military, BP logos, policemen, cheerleaders. The video screams of aggression, power, consumerism and colonialism, while being futuristic. Also showing with the  three-channel Citizen are single-channel works: Citizen: Camping at Home; Untitled (sketch for a monument to J.G. Ballard 1); and Untitled (sketch for a monument to J.G. Ballard 2). These less vivid video works feature layers of highways, SUVs of skies.

Detail of Bill Amundsons "New Babel

Evans, who was born in Australia, grew up in Texas, and received an MFA from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston in 2002, writes in his statement that he is: “reconstruct[ing] the mediated and simulated worlds in front of [him], oscillating between complicity and subversion as [he] searches for a sublime experience in the face of the chaotic information.”

Amundson, several generations Evanss senior, was born in 1953 in Wisconsin. He earned his art degree from University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1975. Less esoteric in his language, he describes his style, honed over 35 years of residency in Denver, as “suburban regionalism.” Recently, an Amundson mural/billboard, “Its Alive,” was unveiled in the Denver Theater District. He is also now in the Face to Face exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

Amundson does not decontextualize his imagery from suburban life as much as Evans does. The loop of technologically enabled appropriation is missing from Amundsons drawing which still use an obsessive no-white-space technique to comment on the white noise of society: chain restaurants, retail outlets, brand logos, oil companies, SUVs, highways, cell phones, celebrities.

top photo: Cliff Evans, Citizen: The Wolf and Nanny, 2009, production still, 3-channel digital animation, 6 min, loop. Courtesy Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, New York
Write us your thoughts about this post. Play nice.