The Golden Cast, Berlin 2010

defect today!

Installation piece with wallpapered structure displaying 7 cast paintings and 2 suitcases with silk-screened t-shirts – free for the public to take and wear.  The installation was part of an Andy Warhol themed exhibition in Berlin entitled, “in fifteen minutes everybody will be famous”.

Here can be seen a detail of the silkscreen wallpaper, ‘Warhol & Me’ with golden cast painting.  The image of Warhol is taken from the 1982 Chris Makos photograph of Warhol in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.  It is paired with a photograph of myself in the same spot in 2009.  This image is repeated across the entire structure and creates a backdrop for the idolized golden cast paintings.

Also pictured here are 2 suitcases filled with silkscreen t-shirts.  There are airplane check-in tags on the suitcases, ‘New York to Berlin’.  On the t-shirts are the images of ‘Warhol & Me’ (identical to the image on the wallpaper).  They are free for the public to take and wear.  This collaboration with the viewer supports the concept of fame and the artist.  It further brings to light the biblical reference of ‘The Golden Calf’ as it relates to “The Golden Cast’.

The Golden Cast

Regarding Jomar Statkun’s, The Golden Cast

By Christopher Stackhouse

The Golden Calf is known as “the divine bull” and the “bull of eternity”, as represented in its mature state, embodied in Egyptian religious myth as the son of Osiris and Isis, a holy mutant like Christ. The Golden Calf in biblical terms represents fetish, idolatry, and has connotations with unsavory preoccupation with wealth and power. This monumental symbol of pagan worship is famously depicted in Nicholas Poussin’s painting “The Adoration of The Golden Calf” (1634). Jomar Statkun uses this complex of historical value placed on the Calf as an analogue to address those representative elements in the art world. With Statkun’s “The Golden Cast”, the process of reproduction – screen printing, cast molding, photography – serves as a juncture between himself, Andy Warhol (as prophet/philosopher) with his Warholian ideals, and a proposed amulet that functions as a stand in for the various coveted objects which drive the art market. The amulet in this case is a 9 inch by 12 inch, gold color infused, plastic replica of one of Statkun’s impasto abstract paintings. A few principle questions, assertions and givens understood by participants in contemporary art are addressed- the creation of multiples; object fixation; ideas themselves as objects and component parts of works of art; the constant shifting evaluation of painting in art history and present-day studio art practice.

Statkun’s crisp composite visual essay is an open-ended question posed by simple image juxtaposition. He reenacts a moment in a photo taken of Warhol at Tian’anmen Square, in the Chinese capital city Beijing, by photographer Chris Makos in 1982; placing himself in both the physical location and composition of the picture, as a replacement of Warhol as ‘tourist’. Using digital reproduction methods his photo is placed side by side with the original Makos photo, then subsequently silk-screened in multiple repetitions patterned as ‘wallpaper’ on blank newsprint. Tian’anmen Square, a venue where intense political unrest has occurred in the not so distant past, is at once backgrounded and foregrounded as an ideational correspondent to potential protest in the art world. The comparison enlarges recognition of artists’ role and responsibility (or culpability) in shaping the space in which they perform. Measured against each other as seen through this lens, focuses on Stakun’s perception of himself and Warhol as actors, each participating in both one micro world (of art), and another, macro world (global political). Invoking the art world as an international or even universal protest site, challenges the ostensibly passive roles set up by ‘casting’ each representative artist (Stakun and Warhol) as tourist. The essential definition of the word tourist is one who “tours for pleasure”, a recreational activity. Undoubtedly Statkun believes there are greater stakes in art than hobby and habit.

A third actor employed by this gesture, is the ubiquitously famous portrait of the first Chairman of The Communist Party of China Mao Tse-Tung. Modeled off an original portrait by Zhang Zhenshi, the large image of Mao hanging in Tian’anmen Square has been re-painted and restored officially by only four artists – the other three are Zhou Lingzhao, Wang Guodong, the latest being Ge Xiaoguang who has held the job since 1977. Wang Guodong was Ge Xiaoguang’s teacher. The picture of the great Chinese leader is symbolic of many things, different things to various points of view, attendant among them heritage, tradition, technical skill in art (creative thought) as a service rendered for the public good of a national community.

Through a minimally staged, subtle composite triangulation, each face of Mao, Statkun, and Warhol are made proxies respectively exemplifying preoccupation with culture and labor. There are things more ethnically charged to deal with, though attenuate, dependent on close and approximate reading. Perhaps it is superficial and coincidental in the Statkun/Mao photo, for one, that Mao’s portrait is tonally darker skinned, while in the Warhol/Mao photo Mao’s skin is pale. Statkun is part Chinese, Filipino, Polish and Lithuanian; Warhol is Slovakian; both are the progeny of recent immigrants to the America of their day. In a hyper-capitalist world that is fast becoming something else yet defined as a global economic model, variously peopled, still, skin color and ethnicity remain possibly referential to labor divisions, class, and social privilege. As likely, the time of day and amount of cloud cover on the days when the pictures were taken might account for the different hues on the Maos. Warhol’s celebrated silk-screened canvases serializing iconographic images of world famous figures, or objects of public controversy (e.g., the Electric Chair series and debates around capital punishment), often prompted interpretive responses to a single image reproduced in different colors. The infamous Mao series (from which one canvas set an auction price record for the artist in 2006 at $17,376,000.00) was no exception from frivolous evaluations of color use from one print to the next. If this move to polar contrast the color of Mao’s face in Statkun’s mix is purposeful, it presents dialectical redux to basic Western aesthetic ideals regarding ‘dark’ and ‘light’, etc. It may also signal contrastive identifications with Mao’s portrait and what it symbolizes – for Warhol fame and power, for Statkun political action and revolt.

Warhol’s portrait copies were and are part and parcel correlatives of ‘meaning’, ‘worth’, and ‘emblem’ iterated with each altered successive reproduced face. Statkun’s duplication processes as means and content, in the abstract, sets in motion a conversation between the living artist and the dead one about art and intent. There are published catalogues of word quotes from Warhol, some admittedly taken out of context, a shifting of language value, what add or subtract poignancy, but sketch an elusive philosophical profile. I have chosen a few of his commonly known sayings to put here:

I am a deeply superficial person.

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest.

If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.”

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Each of these statements present layered ironies, ‘aloof’ and ‘cool’ seemingly delivered but caustic in their passivity. The speaker sounding nearly indifferent to the words, as himself the painter, nearly appears indifferent to painting and the subjects and contents of his canvases. It is clear that this is not purely true. The son of an immigrant coal miner, an Eastern European Catholic, a queer man obsessed with money and fame, who acquires those things through art and creativity fairly much on his own terms, in a land of Protestant heteronormativity, is probably not a “deeply superficial person”. However, his real time attitudes and concerns are plainly surfaced. What he says about both rich and poor Americans being driven by the same consumptive urge is a depressing leveler for the average class conscious, status seeking, wealthy art buyer. It is at once a diminutive dig at “the rich and the ignorant” (to use art critic Robert Hughes’ sharp phrase), and, on the other hand that statement is a compassionate, mildly uplifting, reassuring nod to the poorer classes from which Warhol had come, that the difference between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is slight and may well come down to having a lot of cash. It is an amoral position. It is also a societal observation about economics and capitalism. As of November 2009, a Warhol silk-screened canvas “Eight Elvises” (1963) sold at auction for over $100,000,000.00, setting another posthumous record for the artist; and as of 2010 Warhol remains a central figure in aesthetic discourse, a commercial force in the maintenance of art market, and a point of examination on the roles artists play in society. A conceptual engagement as social experiment with the fetish of plastic arts is being played out in a commodity market, an enterprise having Warhol’s signature on it.

Statkun’s golden replica, presented under these conditions, advances arguments that challenge participants in the art market system to reevaluate its habits and reasoning. This is a systematic appeal toward giving an appraisal of the relationship between market value and spiritual value. He is committing a self-imposed diagnostic reach into the heart of a human problem. For artists, the test is to look at the psychological and emotional implications of turning inspiration, tradition, belief, and creative life practice into fodder for human capital, turning the arena of cultural production into pure marketplace. Beyond the theoretical aspects, there is the actual physical object upon which he has chosen to center feelings and discussion – a gold colored infused  plastic sculpture of his own painting. The cast model of this painting reproduces not only the surface of the painting, but the texture of the unpainted sides of the original canvas, the indentations from, and heads of, the staples securing that canvas to the support. Here, metaphorically speaking, process and materials are representative notions, spheres, into which a viewer can look and openly find traces of effort and decision making. A history in art and painting temporarily stabilized, its causes preserved.