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Joshua Hagler: The Imagined Chase    Mar 1 - Apr 28, 2012


For this project, Hagler's second exhibition with Frey Norris, the artist interviewed four men who, although unknown to each other, share commonalities including psychological trauma and complex and unusual philosophical and religious views. The personal testimonies of these four conceptually underpin the work in the exhibition – the artist himself spent dozens of hours interviewing them, including his father and a man who burned down the building Hagler formerly lived in. Hagler animates their respective likenesses in three-dimensional virtual space, editing and re-contextualizing the original audio testimonies. This process imposes mythological or quasi-historical roles – distinct from the original intentions of the four men – as something akin to the gospel “evangelists.” The overall project explores the historical, mystical and psychological substrates which are precursors to the arising of religiosity.

The Imagined Chase transpires in paintings, sculptures and animations.

Mixed-media paintings, which include a large-scale triptych and an eleven-piece constellation of smaller works, fill the entry gallery. A focus on structural materials predominates. Themes of rebirth, sexuality, redemption and prophecy come to light in cool muted palettes with heavily applied impasto and collaged scraps of canvas adhered with oozing use of silicone. A subdued oceanic use of color de-emphasizes hue in favor of texture and mixing of media. Rorschach-like symmetries recur across media, insinuated into the digital 3D models from the animation, window frames, steel, silicone, and paintings.

Serving as an entrance into the video projection room, the artist will build a 16-foot wide wall composed of burnt-black doors from which protrude high relief sculptures. This sculptural façade is composed of over a thousand torched and painted plastic action figures, seemingly extruded from within the wall. A portal allows access through the wall. Awaiting on the other side are four projections, each one an individual “evangelist,” or animated version of Hagler's four contributors, playing in a twelve-minute continuous and interwoven loop, as though in a complex chorus.

Hagler’s imagery springs self-reflexively from the fertile ground of beliefs and confessions that were offered by his four evangelists. Titles are adopted directly from audio quotes by the animated evangelists and reframed in unexpected ways, blurring boundaries between fictive and non-fictive narratives. These stories exploit the malleability of narrative to give meaning to personal and collective experiences. As the Rorschach inkblots were designed to tease forth subconscious associations, the paintings, in their symmetry and ambiguity, reflect upon and implicate something of both the artist and the viewer.

Hagler’s art recently appeared at galleries and through residencies in New York, Trondheim, Norway, Miami and Lecce, Italy. Recent interviews and reviews with the artist include Beautiful Decay, Artslant, ARTnews, Arteaser, SF Weekly and The Bay Guardian.

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