Wednesday, January 02, 2019

LOL part 2

About a week ago I pulled a couple of prints from some fairly old blocks, potential entries for an upcoming show.  Past the need to finish off a few cards, and my student grading, today I got around to coloring them.  Here is the result and more of the story:

As I wrote last week, these pieces were part of a series (a single three piece artwork- a vertical triptych one might say) from the late 90's, but never exhibited.  I know I made at least one proof of the whole set, and last week a thorough search brought me one image of the completed work, a slide. I believe that the old proof was lost to Hurricane Sandy, and my recent search only turned up two of the blocks.  Proofed the two blocks last week and completed coloring of both today.

As I wrote last time, the piece has its roots in my appreciation of advertising, and a class covering semiotics, as the two are related.  The purpose of advertising is to get people to buy products or services, by any means necessary.  Multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone portray it as a harsh, undesirable business.  The more recent series Madmen (set in that era) shows a constant battle between the creative/artistic parts of the profession and the pure business parts, with each side believing they are the only one that matters.  Not surprisingly, it's the creative part that interests me more, and the visuals of that era (courtesy of old issues of LIFE magazine) have played a part in more than a few prints over the years.  However this piece probably owes more to television advertising.

Toward the end of my grad school experience, I took a class that dealt a lot with semiotics, putting that in the forefront of my mind.  It is basically the study of symbols and the narrative they can provide, which can be applied to art, but can really be a factor in advertising, where getting messages to potential customers is very important.  An article we read actually referenced a French print advertisement for tomato sauce, a scene packed with items that were meant to scream "Italianicity" (to quote the article) without actually saying that.  I found a similar print ad for various Chef Boyardee products in the early 60's that seemed to be constructed the same way.  I don't have any food products to sell, but as an artist I'd rather let viewers draw conclusions instead of hitting them over the head with my point of view- I tend to believe it's more interesting visually, and that the viewer is more likely to agree with the idea if they believe they discovered it on their own.  My experiences in studying semiotics and visual symbols in art, put me in a frame of mind to see television ads a bit differently than I believe was intended, and that's where the art came from.

In the early 80's there was a series of short large format soft cover monographs published by a pharmaceutical company, a few of which are on my bookshelf.  The first (and last) several pages are full color glossy ads for a new hypertension drug (still on the market so I am not going to name it here) with the rest of the publication devoted to the paintings of the artist.  I don't know for sure, but my assumption was that the publications served the dual purpose of advertising the drug to doctors who might prescribe it, and to potential patients who might find these publications in waiting rooms and doctor offices.  The medication ad part mentioned "a side effects profile that favors patient compliance..."which I interpreted as a message to doctors that their patients wouldn't mind taking it so much as other drugs.  A lot of these found their way to used book stores where they were inexpensive reproductions of fine art.  Meanwhile, in the 90's I was back in New Jersey, watching tv, and seeing ads that made no sense to me.  Very often there would be brief scenes of what seemed to be scientists, doing nothing that had anything to do with the product for sale, but I interpreted as an attempt to lend some scientific authenticity to the product.

The result was pieces like this.  I titled it A Side Effects Profile that Favors Consumer Compliance after the line in the publications, with the images combining symbols and locations that had no relationship, except that I saw some humor it it.  So I included lots of scientific types- white lab coats, and always looking through microscopes, on computers, or writing on clip boards, all with no explanation or logical reason for doing so, just as I saw in so many tv commercials.  And these people are found in somewhat incongruent environments, such as in the above images like the urban basketball court, the traditional farm, (or what I found in that slide), a western landscape being traversed by people on skateboards and bicycles, all of which also carry associations for the various viewers.  None of it means anything, but I find it amusing, so I finished coloring the ones I had, took advantage of the Studio space to photograph them, and plan to submit one tomorrow in time for the deadline for the upcoming open show in Belmar.  And then I'll just hope that the viewers see the humor in it, too.


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