Artists Respond: Joe Biel on The Sun and Other Stars

Artist Joe Biel is the latest to take part in our Artists Respond series: web-based projects inspired by an exhibition at LACMA. Joe chose The Sun and Other Stars: Katy Grannan and Charlie White as his jumping-off point.

Inspired by the show, Biel created this online project, called Archive (fragment).  Here’s what he had to say about his response to White and Grannan:

I thought the exhibition was brilliantly curated, because both artists deal with a unified view of image but in totally different ways. My response is made up of images of things that I thought about while looking at the work in the show. There are all these things that leap to mind about society, image, entertainment, what’s real and what’s fictitious.

Charlie White, From the series “Casting Call,” 2010, LACMA, purchased with funds from the Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Charlie White

For example, in the exhibition, Charlie White has this series of visually unified and similar looking blonde girls at a casting call. It communicates a real sense of uniformity. Looking at that work, I’m thinking about traditional ideas of beauty. So there are faces throughout my response– an image of JonBenet Ramsey, an image of an American Idol contestant, a girl from a Budweiser commercial, juxtaposed with mug shots of drug addicts and other documentary photos. I’m thinking about dichotomies, in response to that uniformity that Charlie presents.

From Archive (fragment) by Joe Biel

I’ve been working on a large scale drawing of 1100 television sets stacked up in towers, called Veil. The images that I chose to use in Archive (fragment) are part of the archive of imagery I’ve been collecting for Veil. I’ve been collecting those images the way a writer might approach a novel, creating categories of images the way a novelist might sketch out characters.

From Archive (fragment) by Joe Biel

For me, it was a challenge to work on something for the web. I traditionally make drawings and paintings. I don’t think I’ve ever made a web piece before. It was really freeing though. It allowed me to not worry about certain problems that I do worry about when I’m making an “object”: surface quality, scale, how the drawing will occupy a gallery space. I thought about this project more as a piece of literature. These are the pure images out of my archive before they’ve been manipulated. For that reason, the piece has a more anthropological quality than one of my drawings, which is cleaned up by choice. Looking at the online response is like reading someone’s diary, rather than reading a novel. I found the process interesting and liberating.

From Archive (fragment) by Joe Biel

As a slideshow, the piece is time-based, and that’s not a medium I’ve worked in much. This project allowed me to take what I’m working on in my big project and see a different aspect of it. I think of it as a circle rather than as a line. I wanted the slideshow to resemble a novel like Infinite Jest or Finnigan’s Wake, where at the end you loop back to the beginning. The last image is an image of Wittgenstein, and the first image is this Russian guy. To me they represent different sides of the same character.  The Russian guy has this look of intense tragedy on his face and Wittgenstein has this weird smile. But I’m bringing those opposites together by looping them together.

In real life, things that we try to keep apart are actually joined together in a messier way than we might want to acknowledge.

Amy Heibel

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