HELL TO PAY
Opening reception: Saturday, March 31, 6 – 8 pm
March 31 – May 6, 2012
For immediate release
Rawson Projects is pleased to present HELL TO PAY: Scott Hug opening March 31st, 2012. The exhibition is the second in a series in which artists are commissioned to make a poster for purchase. Artists are encouraged to explore the history of the poster as well as consider their role when working in an uneditioned, unsigned format. In lieu of a traditional press release, we have included an excerpt from a discussion about the project with the artist below.
Rawson Projects: First, let’s discuss the posters themselves. They are composed of images and texts that you have culled from other sources and “edited” in such a way as to create a new image or text. Often this results in a subversive or humorous reformulation of the original. Can you discuss this process and what you see as the potential value in these sorts of reformulations?
Scott Hug: For me it’s about editing what’s already out there. I like to recycle the visual language of communication design in a way to subvert messages about consumption, war, celebrity and mass distraction. I’m looking for images and/or texts that articulate a certain universal collective desire reinforced by a discourse of commercial advertising propaganda— turning it on itself. I feel that, through this selective process, I can point to some kind of clarity or truth, and, often times, there is humor by taking this kind of closer inspection.
RP: Another aspect of the project you highlighted was that as you compose a poster it progresses from actual print clippings, to a digital file, to a final print, that is often much larger than the original source material. This seemingly mechanical process often exaggerates the subversive aspects of the final images. Can you talk about this relationship of translation and scale as it relates to the concept of your overall project?
SH: Occasionally there are some pieces that are more minimal by isolating single fragments of text and/or image. Others are more complex by redesigning, editing and combining additional found material. All of my clippings are scanned, translated into black & white, cleaned-up, and manipulated via Photoshop. By simplifying and enlarging these bits of found information, I’m able to amplify their visual impact from the greater pool of graphic noise. Basically, I filter the visual pollution of our printed world via magazines, newspapers, catalogues, junk mail, etc. and export it through a sharpening lens.
RP: When we discussed the project, you specifically referenced Bern Porter and his “founds” in relation to your work. The “founds,” for Porter, were a way of creating visual poetry from popular culture. Can you discuss your interest in his work further and how it relates to your project?
SH: This past fall I discovered the work of Bern Porter (1911-2004). To my surprise, almost everyone whom I asked had also never heard of Bern. I felt as though I found a sort of artistic soul mate. Bern was among other things; a famed physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project, a poet, an independent publisher, ran his own gallery in Sausalito, CA, a supporter of young West Coast artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, and he started his own School of Advanced Thinking. His early influences were Duchamp, Breton and the Surrealists, Moholy Nagy and Kurt Schwitters. He primarily worked in the artists’ book format and was always broke. Today, I would say that 99% of all artists work with found material. My own interests and excitement about his work are in the way that he edited his “founds.” He too was a sort of artist/activist and had a twisted sense of humor about the American Dream™ (especially after they dropped the A-bomb that his research helped to create). He didn’t really fit into the mold that society had mapped out for him. He was labeled “difficult” and a bit mad, but he never really stopped working and creating a stir in the world of the underground.
RP: Finally, like Porter, you have worked with publishing as a form of artistic practice. You’ve talked about how the format of a book is a different way of communicating or distributing an artistic gesture— as opposed to work displayed on the walls of a gallery. In your mind, how does the poster format relate to these ideas?
SH: Independent publishing, beginning in the 1950s, has exploded and today many artists are self-publishers, bloggers, etc. and understand the concept of getting their work and ideas outside of the white cube. What I love about this series of print-on-demand posters is that they will always be unlimited, affordable and accessible to a wider audience, and they can go up on any wall anywhere whether it’s inside or out. It’s like deconstructing the pages of a newspaper, book, magazine, or smart tablet and adhering them to the wall of public space— transforming the consumer language of consumption into a private space of contemplation. I want my posters to reference a kind of Brutalist design philosophy— to expose the basic function of communication.
Scott Hug (b. 1968, Jefferson City, MO) lives and works in Astoria, New York. He is also publisher and editor of the long-running artist publication K48. His work has been exhibited widely in New York, at venues such as P.P.O.W., Famous Accountants, John Connelly Presents, Envoy Enterprises, Deitch Projects, D’Amelio Terras, Elizabeth Dee, and the Kitchen, among others. He holds a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an M.A. from Pratt Institute, New York.