'Mayday Inter-play'

Alabama Contemporary Exhibition Proposal

Culturally within the United States, we have a tumultuous relationship with media. On the one hand, television and various forms of entertainment can positively impact an individual at an early age. It can instill wonder, hope, and even define a significant portion of one’s interests. However, this seemingly innocent relationship can create a false sense of comfort and lead to toxic habits later in life. The two-person painting exhibition, ‘Mayday Inter-play’, explores the complex relationship each of the artists has with screen-based media using imagery rooted in play and childhood.
 

As an only child in a single-parent household, Christopher Rivera drew from the hours spent in his formative years on television and computer media. In his creative practice, he draws from his experience as a second-generation Latin American to form a unique perspective on how spectacle is packaged and represented within popular culture and media industries in the West. The work references found images and video stills, reproducing this collective dynamic into an amalgam of layers and strokes of paint. For Aaron Pickens, toys are central to his visual vocabulary as a painter – they are transformed to comment on a wide range of issues using both metaphor and allegory. With toys used as symbols in his theatrical still lifes, he interweaves commentary on a variety of topics ranging from sociopolitical issues to existential dilemmas.
 

For this exhibition, each artist navigates the interplay of media and its potentially debilitating effect on making the transition into adulthood. Although the content is weighty, the lighthearted imagery is used to entice the viewer to connect with the work both intellectually and emotionally. The intent of the exhibition is to spark conversation and awareness about our increasingly volatile entanglement with screen-based media while using imagery, content, and humor that is emblematic of our time.
 

The proposed exhibition would require the entirety of the wall space in ‘Gallery B,’ specifically 112.6 running feet. In addition to these two main series of works, supplemental paintings and studies would be generated to utilize the remaining wall space within ‘Gallery B.’
 

For Christopher Rivera, the open walls in ‘Gallery B’ will provide viewers the space needed to take in the chaotic compositions. ‘Goodbye Horse’ and ‘Pleasure Until Forever’ would be placed opposite one another on the two parallel 12’ and 10’ walls flanking the central 20’ wall. These paintings are in the style of vanitas still-life paintings and are a requiem for childhood and states of arrested development. Pop culture iconography, multilayered compositions, and vibrant colors allude to the sensation felt by youths as they navigate the seemingly infinite paths of possibility, as well as the confusion felt by the finality of choice when making the transition from childhood to adulthood. The central piece is a multi-paneled wall hanging installation entitled, ‘Iconographia Popular’. This piece consists of a series of small modular panels at various elevations that combine to form a larger composition. Painted on each individual panel is imagery ranging from consumer products to cartoon characters. The cacophony of imagery is meant to mirror the paralyzing effect the seemingly infinite possibilities of choices available have on any given individual.
 

In ‘The Cube,’ Aaron Pickens will display a series of paintings entitled, ‘Judgment Cray’. The enclosed space will create a sense of confrontation with eight, ominous toy portraits surrounding the viewer. Within the center of the gallery would be a three-dimensional self-portrait entitled, ‘Blockhead.’ This body of work explores the feelings associated with constant evaluation and critique – more specifically, the fear of being assessed and scrutinized by anonymous figures on the other end of an internet connection. The use of playful imagery (toys, primary colors, crayons) is intended to reinforce a feeling of inadequacy, and a child-like naivete when judged by others. Unfortunately, this ridicule has become ubiquitous on social media, especially if one has a point of view that deviates from the dogmatic positions held by many. The fear of belittlement, and ostracization, inherently leads to self-censorship for the sake of self-preservation. Unfortunately, these strenuous social dynamics lead to fluctuations between self-confidence and self-doubt simmering in one’s headspace.
 

Despite the critique of screen-based media and pop culture, this exhibition is ironically a positive result of the connections that can be forged through these interactive platforms. Specifically, the artists became aware of each other through Instagram several years ago, and most recently, exhibited together in a group show in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The juror of the exhibition, Carrie Ann Baade, identified the strong correlation between our work and encouraged us to stage an exhibition together. After discussing the prospect of collaborating on a show, and conducting extensive research on possible venues, it was apparent that Alabama Contemporary would be perfectly suited for our exhibition, ‘Mayday Inter-play.’
 

We believe that the concepts examined in the work are increasingly relevant due to our society’s conflicting dependence on screen-based media. It is our hope that the exhibition will cause others to reflect upon their individual relationships with this form of communication, sparking questions such as:
 

  • Can I truly be ‘me’ without being quietly judged? Should I begin to self-censor my thoughts or actions in an online space? What is considered an acceptable discourse, especially with an ever-shifting cultural and political landscape?
     

  • What is my individual relationship with screen media, and how do I feel about my attention being turned into a commodity?
     

  • What percentage of our interactions are organic? What percentage of them are influenced by algorithms specifically designed to keep us engaged and enraged with others on the platform?
     

  • How will this technology impact early childhood development?
     

Based on the recent exhibitions housed at Alabama Contemporary, it is clear the programming is committed to showcasing thoughtful and innovative artwork from both established and up-and-coming artists.
 

'Visual Documentation'

As a note, all images included below are works that would be in the proposed exhibition.

 

The paintings can also be viewed larger by clicking on the main image in each gallery.

Christopher Rivera

"Pleasure Until Forever"

"Pleasure Until Forever"

Oil on Panel 40" x 40" 2019

"Goodbye Horses"

"Goodbye Horses"

Oil on Panel 48" x 48" 2019

"Iconographia Popular"

"Iconographia Popular"

Oil on panel 48" x 108" 2020

"Iconographia Popular"

"Iconographia Popular"

Oil on panel 48" x 108" 2020

Aaron Pickens

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

Judgment Cray - Install

Judgment Cray - Install

Tiffin University Tiffin, OH 2021

Judgment Cray - Install

Judgment Cray - Install

Tiffin University Tiffin, OH 2021

Judgment Cray - Install

Judgment Cray - Install

Tiffin University Tiffin, OH 2021

"Judge 1"

"Judge 1"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 2"

"Judge 2"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 3"

"Judge 3"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 4"

"Judge 4"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 5"

"Judge 5"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 6"

"Judge 6"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 7"

"Judge 7"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Judge 8"

"Judge 8"

Oil on Panel 24" x 24" 2022

"Cowboy"

"Cowboy"

Oil on Panel 6" x 6" 2022

"Soldier"

"Soldier"

Oil on Panel 6" x 6" 2022

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

"Blockhead"

"Blockhead"

Oil on Panel 10" x 10" x 10" 2021

Exhibition-Layout_03-01.jpg

Click on the layout graphic to zoom in.

Rivera & Pickens © 2022