January 14, 2012

Joshua Saunders "Crip/Blood" at Domy Books - Austin

Joshua Saunders

Saturday, January 14, 2012
7-9pm, FREE

Exhibition runs January 14–March 1, 2012
Back Room Gallery: Michelle Devereux

The work of Joshua Saunders often begins from a contradiction. It foregrounds elements that prove incendiary within the threadbare discourses of race, sex, gender, and violence. But this foregrounding is backed by the artist’s intense desire to get them out of the way. He does not want to talk about them. Asked whether or not his work has a place in these conversations, he is evasive. “The work is (about) humor.” This complicated stance exposes the train of concerns the viewer brings on her own. What makes her laugh? What makes her angry? What does and does not make sense to her modes of perception? One does not look at Saunders’ work but reaches around it, back at herself, clasping her own hand. In doing so, she’s surprised to find herself embracing, in this particular show, a cripped out puppy or a steamrolled Michael Jordan.

Crip/Blood is no less punchy than anything the artist has done before, but it is perhaps his most concentrated meditation thus far. This concentration accesses a distinction not thought about enough: what is the difference between a community and a mass? How does what started in Compton in ’69 amongst a definable, interrelated, if highly conflictive, group become currency for a heterogeneous zoo of characters—from rich white boys to barrio youth—who happen to drink from the same mass media watering holes? What is it that they all find sustaining and seductive? Who produces who?

In responding to these questions, the artist relentlessly obliterates and reinscribes a battery of oppositional pairings, all the while irreverent of any difference between the formal and the social: red/blue, black/white, black/black, East Coast/West Coast, playground/street, hard/soft, uncouth/genteel, isolated/disseminated, and of course, Crip/Blood. This final pair is currently one of the mass’ fullest and emptiest signifiers, the artist seems to be saying. They are no longer even words, but icons. Crip and Blood are no longer text, but image—one amidst a myriad reflected in the surfaces of our respective watering holes.

Slurp slurp Slurpee.

– Josh T. Franco

Domy Books - Austin
913 E Cesar Chavez,
Austin, TX 78702
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