|todd camplin weekly...
at Galleri Urbane through August 25th.
by Todd Camplin
Throughout the history of art, propaganda has come and gone out of fashion. Propaganda
can be commissioned by the state or by an opposition group to the status quo. Unfortunately,
without ambiguity, propaganda makes an artwork timely, but not timeless. The message gets
stale as centuries pass. Thus the art just becomes an artifact. I was just in Shreveport Louisiana
yesterday looking war posters. R.W. Norton Art Gallery has a display of World War 1 posters
that are pure propaganda. Historically they were interesting, but they lacked a timeless
beauty or sublime meaning that great works seem to posses.
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|Willburn is also a playful dystopian. For someone that can paint a picture of doom and gloom for
the future, he uses fantastic colors that project some hope. His idea of using material that is left
over from a disaster isn’t new. Many of the Modernists wanted the past to be swept away in place
of the new. In their utopia, the past would be upended to a new beautiful world. Of course, some
leaders obliged by starting two world wars. With the benefit of history as hindsight, Willburn sees
the potential of one person's utopia usually turning into everyone else's wasteland. His show is a
warning. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
|How does an artist make topical art without falling in the trap of propaganda? It seems that David
Willburn is giving it a go with his show at Galleri Urbane. With the current rhetoric of wall building
coming out of the oval office, Willburn responds by making abstract images that give a sense of
stone structures. His overlapping acrylic scraps of paint are applied on like tape where you can
see paint built up surface. In fact, I first thought his work used tape scraps, but no, that is paint.
In his piece titled We’ll Make a Mountain with the Things We’ve Gathered 0303, he depicts a
monolithic object in the middle with a hint of a brick wall in the background. This wall Willburn
references is in response against the wall along the border of the United States and Mexico.
However, the work doesn’t scream it, spell it out, or even say in the title what it is about.
Therefore, Willburn’s abstract reaction to a current event has the chance to live on as
meaningful discussion for any discussion about barriers.
|Willburn’s work is also about personal identity. In the past, he used sewing as part of creating lines
and shapes. His choice of colors and shapes might also reflect the aesthetic of his identity. But
then again, this too is ambiguous. I think his use of abstract colors and shapes allows for broader
interpretations. His work is subtle and invites you to get to know his art and then know the artist.
David Willburn’s show titled Queer the Materials! Fortify the Domestic! Stone the Hegemony!
Will be up at Galleri Urbane through August 25th.