Transition and Light at HEDGE Gallery
TRANSITION features new works by Jason Alexander Byers, including his tar series and target collages, on view through June 14, 2014.
Byers studied sculpture at Kent State University, where he turned to the wildly inventive arts and music scenes. Music took him on tours across Europe and the United States as the vocalist of the well-known Cleveland band Disengage. After moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2009, Byers continued working on fine art. Building on his fascination with cityscapes and skylines, his most recent project involves tracing the positive and negative space of churches using tar, which conjure all the implicit menace of a Rorschach inkblot. While not strictly iconoclastic, his recent works call to question an obsessive fascination with buildings and the ideas inside them.
Light, opening June 20, features photographs by Daniel Mainzer that cover the expanse of his commercial and recent artistic career.
Mainzer started shooting at age 12 with a Brownie Hawkeye camera, and has been documenting ever since. He began his “stills career” in Denver, Colorado where under the instruction of Theron Taylor, a student of Minor White, he shot and processed a black and white photograph each day for 6 years.
After working commercial jobs for companies such as Firestone Tire and Stouffers Foods, Mainzer opened his own studio and gallery in 1987. He continues the quest to capture prime moments, running on intuition and reaction. This exhibit documents a commercial photographer’s life of non-stop shooting and the development into an artistic vision for his work.
Transition: Jason Byers at HEDGE Gallery
by Lyz Bly, PhD
Jason Byers doesn’t have to speak to make you aware of his obsession with the city and monuments to capital and industry; his arms are odes to them, covered in tattooed silhouettes of the Terminal Tower and the ill-fated World Trade Center, among others. Byers’ work as a visual artist and front-person of the germinal punk band, Disengage, is centered on deconstructing the promises of the industrial age. As a child of the Rust Belt (he is a native Pittsburgher with strong connections in Cleveland), he grew up during a time when urban progress was waning in palatable ways, as the Cuyahoga River burned, Lake Erie died, and high paying union jobs dried up and went to places of the world where workers would work for less money and no benefits. As he bellows in the song “Pharmacyland,” Byers was–like so many of us–one of the “generations left to complain” over the failures of modernity.
His recent work expands upon the themes he’s pondered for more than a decade. The new work, however, refines Byers’ iconography, further complicating the target with language, architecture, political symbols and commercial graphics, and adding more texture and nuance to the cityscape. Rendered in tar, “Bethel Park,” reads as a silhouette of a church roof with cross amid a field of leafy tops, and as a satellite view of a lake or seashore. His use of tar adds a slick, beautiful texture to the surface of the work, and conceptually the material references the ways in which petroleum products saturate our environment and way of life.
“Grace Church Target” is comprised of a paper cut out and a sign with words that are made intelligible because of how he placed the neon paper and severed the text. The steeple of Grace Church, taken out of context, becomes the main device of the target, yet what’s in its scope is unclear. This work particularly signals a new era of dismay for Byers and those of us who came of age amid the condition of post-modernity. Faced with the end of industry in places like Cleveland, but also throughout the U.S., the American dream has become less attainable. Yet with the rise of mass media, meaning has been more obscured, symbols less clear, and agents of power less accountable for their crimes and follies. Our generation and those of the future have a great deal to be concerned about; Byers work illustrates the inscrutability of American culture and politics. “Generations left to complain,” indeed. How do we effectively put forth our grievances, and to whom do we grieve? These are the questions Byers addresses in his current body of work and through Transition at HEDGE Gallery, on view until June 14th.
1300 West 78th Street, Suite 200
Cleveland OH 44102
TRANSITION, new works by Jason Alexander Byers: April 18 to June 14
LIGHT, works by Daniel Mainzer: June 20 to August 2
IT FIGURES, new works by Joe Ayala and John W. Carlson August 15 to October 4