Archive for September, 2011

“Art of Destruction”

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October is a major busy month for us.  Here’s a brief rundown:

October 7:  “Spaghetti Western” (see “Everyday Italian” blogpost below) opens as a part of “ Cincinnati Dreams Italy” at Taft Museum.
October 7:  Doug Korfhagen is including artwork from Thunder-Sky, Inc. in a show at Southgate House
October 22:  “Diirect Contact: Self-made Pop” opens at Bromwell’s Gallery on 4th Street downtown Cincinnati with reception 6-10, and runs through the end of the year.  On October 27, we’re screening the Thunder-Sky feature-length documentary there at 7 pm. 
October 28:  “Entertainment Tonight!” featuring works by artists Ran Banaclo and Larry Cocklin

Also on October 22 and 23, we’re involved in this gig:

Our part will be “Art of Destruction,” a hands-on display featuring a wrecking ball created by Happen, Inc. last year, which can be used to destroy a huge city of cardboard-box buildings we’ve been working on in the studio for a while.  Pictures above.  We’re also going to be showing some of Raymond’s more destructive drawings.  Should be fun.

Everyday Italian

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Ran Barnaclo

Antonio Adams

Leigh Cooney

Robert McFate

Lindsey Whittle
Thunder-Sky, Inc. has curated a portfolio of works for ”Cincinnati Dreams Italy,” a show of paintings, sculptures and photographs by local artists in association with the Taft Museum’s exhibit of George Inness’s Italian landscapes.  School Amici‘s Kathy Holwadel has spearheaded this great event.  Gallery spaces will be scattered throughout the Lytle Park neighborhood (where the Taft is located) in historic buildings, many not usually open to the public.  Open weekends October 8–25. 11 a.m. to -5 p.m. 
Our part of this gig is called “Spaghetti Western” and features:  Antonio Adams, Robert McFate, David Rizzo, Emily Bicknaver, Bill Ross, Dale Jackson, Mike Weber, Keith Banner, Kristen Vinci, Lindsay Whittle, Ervin Henderson, Ran Barnaclo, Brian Joiner, Leigh Cooney, Todd M. Coe, and Spencer van der Zee.  “Spaghetti Western” will be located at 400 Pike Street, next door to the Taft.  We’ll be part of a preview 6 to 9 pm on October 6, and the actual opening is October 7, 2011.
Below is info about “Spaghetti Western.”

Kathy Holwadel came to us with an idea earlier this summer about pulling together an unconventional, Italy-inspired set of works by artists associated with Thunder-Sky, Inc. So we put out the word to artists we’ve shown the past two years at our space in Northside. Many of the artists are from around here, including Antonio Adams, Dale Jackson, Emily Brandehoff, Spencer van der Zee, Ran Barnaclo, Mike Weber, Britni Bicknaver, Bill Ross, Lindsey Whittle, Kristen Vinci… Some aren’t:  Todd M. Coe from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Leigh Coonery from Canada, and Robert McFate from Tennessee.

We spoke to these artists about how they “viewed” Italy through the lens of pop culture mostly, and the responses came through pieces like Antonio Adams’ “Tony and the Italian Mobsters,” a hilarious grab-bag of pop-culture images and associations ranging from “Jersey Shore” to “The Godfather.” Britni Bicknaver’s working on a visual “tribute” to Rick Steves, the NPR tourist guru. Lindsay Whittle has done a homage to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, whose sir-names come from famous Italian artists (Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello). Tennessee folk artist Robert McFate contibutes three pieces, ranging from a portrait of Clint Eastwood in A Fistful of Dollars to a cardboard relief sculpture dedicated to his favorite local pizza joint to a tabletop board-game based on “Rocky.” Mike Weber has a done a sculptural tribute to the ultimate Italian/American gourmet merger: “the personal pan pizza.” Bill Ross and Emily Brandehoff have collaborated on a homage to Italian horror movie directors like Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Leigh Cooney calls himself a “folk pop artist,” and his vision of the cultural-touchstone Italian masterpiece by Leonardo DaVinci transforms the mysterious Renaissance smile into the overanxious grin of the pharmaceutical 21st Century: a Mona Lisa for the “bipolar age.” “Mona Lisa” has been reinvented by a lot of artists and ad agencies, but Leigh seems to be referencing mustachioed Marcel-Duchamp mischief just as much as the actual masterpiece itself. Most of the art we’ve chosen is like that: referencing Italy through the funhouse mirror of cultural appropriation. It’s like a little weird survey of what Italy “means” to Everyday America.

Most of the artists in “Spaghetti Western” probably haven’t ever been to Italy literally, so their configurations of Italy’s influence aren’t about authenticity or tourism, but about what “Italy” means to their imaginations through TV, books, movies, art, and fastfood. “Spaghetti Western” is more about responses to representations than about creating representations of actual Italian places and cultures. The unconventional art and artists we’ve pulled together investigate Italy through what we often take for granted as “pop culture,” that steady stream of imagery and language and symbols coming through the TV, internet, and strip-malls.

George Inness’ depiction and love of Italy is like the jumping-off point for us to look at the way that love and depiction work themselves out in everyday American life: from Pizza Hut to Francis Ford Coppola, from Rick Steves to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These images and influences are part of how any culture, including Cincinnati, often “dreams” Italy.


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“Direct Contact: Self Made Pop” opens October 22, 2011 with a reception 6 to 10 pm at Bromwell’s Gallery 117 West Fourth Street Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Thunder-Sky, the new feature-length documentary about Raymond Thunder-Sky’s life and legacy will be screened October 27, 2011, as part of “Direct Contact,” at Bromwell’s Gallery.

Greatest Hits

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“Thunder-Sky!” documentary poster by Todd M. Coe

“Super What? [Part One],” Drew Kidd and Bill Ross

“Bloodbath,” Tony Dotson and Bill Ross

“Turn the Negative into Positive, Part 4,” Antonio Adams

“Dracula,” Raymond Thunder-Sky

“So You Think You Can Dance,” Mike Weber and Dale Jackson

“Direct Contact: Self Made Pop” opens October 22, 2011 at Bromwell’s Gallery, on the second floor of Bromwell’s (117 West Fourth Street), the longest-running business in downtown Cincinnati. Bromwell’s Gallery’s mission is to bring Cincinnati fine art that is accessible to all art enthusiasts, and “Direct Contact” is an accessible, fun, unpretentious survey of art made by unconventional artists including Antonio Adams, Todd M. Coe, Cedric Cox, Tony Dotson, Drew Kidd, David Mack, Bill Ross, Spencer van der Zee, and the late Brian Joiner and Raymond Thunder-Sky.

The show is kind of like a “greatest hits” album for Thunder-Sky, Inc.  It includes work from previous shows, as well as art made by artists who have had work in some of the 12 or so exhibits we’ve curated in the space since opening two years ago.

All the artists featured in “Direct Contact” create their work in a diverse range of styles and subject matters, and yet what their works have in common are styles and attitudes borrowed from popular culture, including narratives and imagery from B-movies, video games, comic books, tabloids, 24-hour news cycles, and so on. In other words, they create aesthetic universes from cultural litter. Dotson’s use of cartoon compression and satire reveal the joke of just about everything most people take seriously. Ross’ slick, Technicolor exercises in kitschy surrealism come off like candy-colored pastiches of 50s monster flicks. Van der Zee delves into the R. Crumb depths of ‘zine culture for a lot of his inspiration and comes up from the underground with drawings that simmer with weird associations and few bitter truths. Adams’ paintings of Lady Gaga literally kicking the ass of Osama Bin Ladin read like Quentin Tarantino editorial cartoons, and his collaboration with the late Brian Joiner (created in 2009) repurposes superheroes and 9/11 imagery in a chilling homage to Picasso’s “Guernica.”

The central figure in “Direct Contact” is Raymond Thunder-Sky. His whole persona and art come from a desire to merge the Pop-Art, primary-colored sadness of clowns and carousels with the dreamy anxieties of demolition sites and vacant buildings. Before passing away in 2004, Thunder-Sky walked around the city of Cincinnati for decades, often dressed in a clown/construction-worker costume; he would set up a drawing table in front of demolition sites and draw the destruction head-on, finishing each work in the privacy of his apartment. The results are drawings that marry docu-drama severity with the clown/poet’s need to re-envision the world as a place where bulldozers named Dracula help pave the way for the new Clownsville Amusement Park and Super Highway.

Thunder-Sky made direct contact with the world through his need to make art. He took popular culture and reshaped it into a series of indelible images. Mack, Cox, and Coe pay homage to Thunder-Sky’s influence in a series of drawings and paintings that turn a street-person into an icon. Mack is a graphic-novelist and artist from Kentucky, and he has produced a suite of Thunder-Sky drawings and paintings that reveal both his stubbornness and his innocence. Cox has taken a print of one of Thunder-Sky’s unfinished drawings and finished it in his own style. And Coe, a filmmaker and artist from Wisconsin, contributes images he made for animation sequences for a Thunder-Sky documentary titled Deconstructing a Legacy of Art.

All the artists in “Direct Contact” have exhibited their works at Thunder-Sky, Inc., the gallery in Northside created to archive the 2,000-plus drawings Thunder-Sky left behind. Thunder-Sky, Inc.’s mission is to keep Thunder-Sky’s legacy alive through educational programs and exhibits, as well as showcasing and supporting unconventional artists like him from across the region. Bromwell’s mission is to bring Cincinnati fine art that is accessible to all art enthusiasts – whether you are a seasoned collector or simply want a unique, quality piece for your home. They represent artists whose roots hail from the midwest, and their promote their works via exhibits backed by art openings, gallery tours, private showings, artist lectures and educational events.


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