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New Work

My new work is long due its web debut. The last six months have been a massive transition time. I have graduated from school, been unemployed for a summer, moved to Belize, and become a teacher. Here are some of my most recent drawings. I will soon post pictures of my adventures here in Belize but for now, as usual, this work is up for an open critique. Tell me what you think of the work. Tell me what you think about this type of work. Tell me what you think, period.


I'm not sure how I feel about the direct appropriation from the photograph in these ones (I assume they're all appropriated). In the paintings, you were able to change the content of the image via paint application/color choice/and various other alterations. These too closely resemble the original, and they look unfinished. Maybe check out the artist Yun-Fei Ji; he's a social realist watercolorist from China who is mostly concerned with politics of the Three Gorges damn. I think you are similar stylistically and in your handling of current topics in a traditional style. Finally, I think you need to add you're voice somewhere in the mix – even if you are ambivalent about it all. What's the point in copying media images of Saddam or al Qaeda – we're already flooded with these images; how does your painting them change anything or call attention to anything important?

Nice. Now what about the rest of you?

Craigers could you post a link to his work (Yun-Fei Ji). A site or gallery link or something so that we can all see what you are referring to?

In my defense:
The first drawing is of Mexican protesters in the State of Oaxaca, and the City of Oaxaca. The city where I was born.

The second is a detail of the first.

The third is Iraeli soldiers shelling Lebanon.

The fourth is Fidel

The fifth is George Price, the first prime minister of Belize.

The sixth is "Janjaweed" (spelling?).

The final image is of a "terrorist," Abu Musab al-Zarqawi late leader of Al-Queda in Iraq

I am excited to be back on the blogging prowl again!

Craigers has mentioned in his comment several ideas which are striking.

First, this idea relating to "direct appropriation from the photograph."

Now, what is appropriation? What is exploration and what is plagiarism? At what point may an "artist" consider something his own, or at point does something cease to be appropriated? Is what's important the source of the image of the frame of the image. Or perhaps, is the frame of the image itself what's important?

"In the paintings, you were able to change the content of the image via paint application/color choice/and various other alterations..."

Craig here is referring to my older work. (Can be seen here, www.postjoe.com). But, I wonder, how is ink any less of a change? I have still very consciously excluded details, highlighted certain areas, and ignored others. Surely, the validity of a drawing is not solely in the medium.

The idea that "I should add my voice," is curious to me. First, is my voice really all that important? Is it my voice, or is it the frame work, which I determine? Are they the same thing? Is my "voice" in the work regardless of my intentions (can I willfully remove my voice)?

Finally, in response to: "What's the point in copying media images of Saddam or al Qaeda – we're already flooded with these images; how does your painting them change anything or call attention to anything important?"

I think this is probably the question that I have struggled with most. Essentially, I read this question as asking: "What is the purpose of painting?" Should painting be about making statements? Or "calling attention" to something important? And if so, what things are important? And who determines what topics/images are important? What are the criteria for importance? Craigers even suggests that my voice should be expressed more overtly even if it is a voice of "ambivalence"...

I know here I have presented more questions than answers. For most of these questions I have an "answer" but my answers are evolving. And I am more interested in learning from you.

Now, what do you think? How would you answer these questions? Should I just quit making paintings all together and take up sculpture? I am fishing for an opinion here...Please?

My gallery is currently showing Yun-fei's work (and I was at work when I made the post...see the connection). www.jamescohan.com

Now for my counter-response:

First, I take back my comment about drawing not changing the content enough…I suppose it is just a more subtle way to do it – that is, you haven’t really affected scale and the images are still on paper in monochrome (much like a newspaper).

Second, I am certainly not questioning the validity of appropriation, as much as I am questioning whether it is the best route for you. I mean, I don’t really think your artwork is about appropriation in the way that Richard Pettibone or Richard Prince is. Or am I wrong? Is this about appropriating media? And if so, why have you chosen these images and what is the point in painting them at all – why not just leave them photographs and make it about selection and arrangement? And perhaps this is my point; that in drawing media images you are not adding anything significant to the political dialogue nor the artistic dialogue (since appropriation is nothing new). Are you just regurgitating (albeit in a fashioned way) what the media already does – collage snippets of multiple global issues into one 20 minute segment?

Postjoe wrote: “First, is my voice really all that important?”

Well, if you’re painting, you must think so to some degree. Painting is essentially the expression of an artist’s opinions/perspective. You aren’t hiding these paintings…the least you can be is honest about your intentions. You seem to think that there is something important about global politics, but for all I know you just like the way media images look.

Ok, you’re asking for opinions, so here’s mine… Just so you know where I’m coming from, I have not had any technical training in art, but I do enjoy good work and appreciate the insight of those who know more than me on the subject. I am, however, an activist, and from that perspective I view art as a means to raise awareness about social issues and to bring to light things that might not be apparent at first glance. And that’s what I think Joe is trying to do with his work.

So, as to Craig's questions about the artist’s voice missing from the drawings and the idea of copying media images that we are already flooded with, I think that an artist’s voice is her/his art, and in that sense, Joe is expressing his voice through these drawings.

The way I see it, the point is not to create an exact copy of newspaper clippings to demonstrate his abilities as an artist or to get a reaction for “appropriating” certain faces or events. By reflecting these subjects, Joe makes a clear statement that they are important and need to be given more consideration than one would give a picture in a newspaper or on television.

More importantly, by representing certain people and issues, the artist gives them a voice and makes people question their significance. At the least, he opens people’s eyes to these issues and gives people a chance to think about them without the distorting effects of media commentary.

First of all, I think we should recognize that Fidel has an excellent shnoz!... wouldn't you say?!! 2 thumbs up! Second of all the fat man on the horse has a good wieght to him.

As to appropriation... that's what our world is all about! So what if it's been done, let's just do it a little differently... just have a reason to spit when asked.

As for the subject... why these people and groups? I feel that this type of work is going to be most effective through the body of work. It's kind of like your group of terrorists. If it were one dude, it wouldn't make sense, I would say... "SO what"?? However, as CNN's 20 dudes it made complete sense... "oh, that's what". My point is that I don't see the connection between these drawings... and at this point in your exploration that's Okay. I see leaders and commoners. Legitamate(?) leaders and self proclaimed leaders. Commoners in peaceful(?) masses and commoners in war times.
I guess I see a globalization of sticky political wars... But what I want is more Connection (whether ironic, tounge and cheek, or overtly obvious) in order to be a body.

Okay also, I found this dude that I am soooo stoaked about and I think ya'll might dig him too. His name is Banksy...heard of him anyone? Just google image his name. He's been known to go into museums, put up his own stuff, and not get caught. He is most known for his stenciling and wit in his very cleverly placed work.

check these out:


(almost as good as your masked childrens!)

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