Generic Art Solutions
Catalogue for the NOMA
1 Collins Diboll Cir, New Orleans, LA
Texts— Miranda Lash, Simeon Hunter
Deja Vu: All Over Again
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Edition of 120
Printed in Canada by Prolific Group
Typefaces— Minion, Whitney, Akkurat
What is history but a string of moments in time, a repetition of the "now" destined to become events recorded as the "past"? And what then of the future?
—Generic Art Solutions
The New Orleans Museum of Art is proud to present the first solo museum exhibition of Generic Art Solutions, the New Orleans-based collaborative team of Tony Campbell and Matt Vis. Featuring all new work in the mediums of photography, video, sculpture, and silkscreen painting, Déjà vu All Over Again: Generic Art Solutions pushes forward an inquiry into the mechanisms of social, political, and economic power at work both historically and in the present day.
Established in 2000, Generic Art Solutions has for the past ten years blended history and humor with incisive critique. Featuring many mediums, including photography, performance art, video, silkscreen, and sculpture, their work has a strong conceptual emphasis, often engaging with political and social issues. One of their enduring passions is the incorporation of ideas and compositional elements from Western art history and Old Master painters. In their work art history and current events collide and illuminate each other, with the repetition of imagery raising the perennial question: "Is there anything new under the sun?" Their self-appointed task of making art history relevant to audiences today relates to their role as the locally famous "Art Cops," or "International Art Police," an ongoing performance piece they have enacted since 2001. As "Art Cops" they hold art to the highest standard, taking artists to task for disappointing their audiences with work that is (as their citations read):"esoteric," "too art school," "formulaic," or perhaps most damning, work that inspires the question "who cares?"
For their exhibition at NOMA, G.A.S. chose to focus on an event with large and long lasting repercussions for Louisiana and the world beyond: the April 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The exhibition title Déjà vu All Over Again (a quote from Yogi Berra) captures the typical sense of surreality and levity in their work, and the frustrating sentiment in Louisiana that its history of corruption and man-made disasters has a tendency to repeat itself. The artists explain:
In our work, we find ourselves on the cusp of history here in New Orleans. Within our recreations of Classical paintings in video and photography, we pay homage to past histories while we chronicle our own dramatic times. It is the past and the present, inextricably linked through the unceasing human epic.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, The Raft, continues Generic Art Solutions artistic practice of reenacting well-known Old Master paintings, using only their own bodies and local props. Their goal is not to precisely replicate historical paintings. Rather, they employ déjà vu as a critical tool, stimulating a dialogue between past and present. The Raft anchors the largest room in the exhibition, which is dedicated to the eleven men who perished during the explosion on the oil drilling rig Deepwater Horizon on April 20, 2010: Donald Clark, Shane Roshto, Dewey Revette, Adam Weise, Wyatt Kemp, Dale Burkeen, Jason Anderson, Karl Kleppinger, Stephen Curtis, Gordon Jones, and Blair Manuel. The eleven photographs of water surrounding this space (one dedicated to each individual) were taken on the Gulf of Mexico, aboard a launch boat that provided supplies to oil rigs.
Repetition (when not used as meditation) often gives us a sense of unease, inspiring fear that progress is not occurring on personal and societal level. However, though Generic Art Solutions uses repetition as a central device in their artwork, their message is not a pessimistic one. Rather than focus on the futility of human progress, they look to history as an illustrative mirror, one we can learn from. Above all they value criticality, and through criticality, we can break cycles of abuse, corruption, and disaster. Déjà vu in this sense becomes not an uncanny nightmare, but a cue to thoughtfully revisit the past, lest we become doomed to repeat it.