Ron Rocheleau, "Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Sometimes Phillips," May 31-July 30, 2007, at Cristinerose Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
In his studio, the New York artist Ron Rocheleau is cutting out pictures from recent auction catalogues and putting them into a box, one of several that are scattered around his work table. Lying on the top of the pile is an image of photographer Cindy Sherman in full-color dress as a clown, resplendent in loud silken regalia, projecting Bozo’s own brand of power and pride -- a penetrating portrait of the artist as court jester. The picture is just one of the many art-star money shots that Rocheleau uses as his palette.
Rocheleau makes his labor-intensive collages on a large drafting table, hunched over, meticulously cutting out and around words and images with an Exacto knife. He takes his material from contemporary art auction catalogues from Christie’s, Sotheby’s and, as Rocheleau says, "sometimes Phillips." A couple hundred of the thick, lavishly illustrated catalogues -- which art dealers and collectors buy for $35 each, and then throw away -- are neatly stacked along one wall.
He aligns this material with neat intensity within a visual grid, crafting what looks like super-sized pages from an art magazine from hell. All pictures and captions, Rocheleau’s collages are concentrated emblems of big-time big money, hero worship in a 35,000-square-foot studio space. Cattelan, Close, Gursky, Hirst, Koons, Kruger, Le Witt, Warhol, in Rocheleau’s collages the collision of art and money is raised to the nth degree. "I hate this stuff," said one viewer. "It makes me sick.
Fans of public-access cable TV in Manhattan may know Rocheleau from Concrete TV, a legendary 30-minute show that first aired in 1991. Loosely based on the experimental art video of Bruce Connor and Kenneth Anger, Concrete TV takes high-key action scenes from all kinds of old movies, from Godzilla and Clockwork Orange to foreign flicks and porno, and combines them into a fast-paced montage.
Cynical and exploitive on their face, Rocheleau’s videos combine climax after climax in a rapid-fire machine-gun onslaught, a controlled flow of acid dream imagery with a soundtrack marked with a pulsing heavy-metal beat. It could be 50 car crashes -- boom boom boom -- cutting to a flurry of flying knives to ‘60s go-go dancers to gay porn butt shots and on and on. This is classic, late-night stoned-on-anything public-access TV.
By 1993, Concrete TV had become famous, and in ’96 it was named the "Best TV Show in America" by Rolling Stone Magazine. Time Out NY has tagged it twice as the best cable TV show and last year a guy named Mark Griffen even called it "a work of genius" in N+1 Magazine.
With the rise of digital video, Rocheleau realized that his interest in Concrete TV had run its course, and turned to making 2D collages with his actual digits. The new work is astonishing in the way that it plugs contemporary art directly into a matrix of money and status. It puts the intimate ties between art-star celebrity and big money right in your face, and manages to reveal all that glamour as just so much ugly.
Concrete TV currently airs on MNN cable TV on channel 67 on Friday nights at 1:30 a.m.
PAUL HASEGAWA-OVERACKER (H-O) is presently in post-production on the feature documentary, Guest of Cindy Sherman.