Curtis Mclean – American Language
Weiss Falk, Basel
Weiss Falk is pleased to present “American Language”, the first solo exhibition in Switzerland of Frankfurt based Canadian artist Curtis Mclean.
With a continuing research into architecture understood both as a rationalizing discipline and powerfully calculating D-E-S-I-R-I-N-G machine transcending the built environment, Mclean’s works borrow from and realign the various image worlds cultural expansion continuously produces and disseminates.
A central field his works engage with formally are the devices of advertising space as key extensions of the architainment complex. From the glass facades of the P-R-O-T-O-T-Y-P-I-C-A-L to their current translations into the lurid surfaces igniting and reflecting conspicuous consumption epitomized by the totality of the Las Vegas Strip or a digital screen device, Mclean in particular traces and utilizes the attendant physical formats, be that the glossy pages of architecture & lifestyle digests or the coruscating vessels designed to house their storied artifacts.
T-R-A-N-S-P-A-R-E-N-C-Y, the chief attribute of glass, cellophane, polyethylene, and Plexi, is a signature yet problematized quality running through McLean’s variously appropriated packagings and wrappings whose commerciality is being incorporated into paintings, collages, drawings and sculptures. By way of these transfer processes the initial clear cut communicative charge of these materials becomes refracted and rerouted to function within the artist’s own system of visual compulsiveness and complicity. Mclean fills these non withholding surfaces and containers with content that departs from generic motifs of so called Western consumer culture to the more specific, nostalgically and historically overloaded visual heritage of the American West that persists as a strong yet ambivalent ideological currency for both advertising and politics not least in view of its D-E-P-L-O-Y-M-E-N-T by stylists, environmentalists, libertarians, copywriters, gun lobbyists and racialists alike.
A recurrent trope from Mclean’s image pool clusters of luxury watches points to the commodification of T-I-M-E and moreover to salable heroic experience, the latter in turn one of the most powerful narratives undergirding the dramatic frontier landscapes and rugged self sufficient characters that together make up Americana. Rather than operating in the register of appropriationist tradition, Mclean shifts the critical impetus toward the handmade, the mocked up and the camp, at times in dedication to seemingly disparate individualists ranging from Marion Robert Morrison aka John Wayne to Jeanne Lanvin, forerunners all in the art of the brand.
In the course of the exhibition, Mclean will launch his latest publishing project “American Language” at Hacienda Books. As with his previous magazines as artwork “Bongo” and “Bongo AD / Travel + Leisure”, promotional tactics of enticement and the kind of surfaces they engender are put into play to deconstruct just what it might be that makes the quintessential American language of escapism as consumption so pervasive, so recyclable and so appealing.
Photos: Gina Folly, Courtesy: Weiss Falk and the Artist