Open Season: Curated with Allen Thomas Jr.

Exhibition Images

Nov 1, 2010 - Jan 21, 2011


Open Season

Building a significant art collection is no small task. It requires a single-minded devotion to a passion, a pursuit that requires a substantial commitment of time, resources, and storage. Once a collector’s fruits are established as a unit, the collection then becomes a gathering place for hopeful artists, interested curators, and budding researchers. Throughout the history of art collecting, mere association with prominent patrons has helped to launch careers, dictate values, and validate provenance studies. To reach this point, however, a collector must first navigate the vast offerings of artworks by untold numbers of artists. This exhibition includes works by artists who are represented within photography collector Allen Thomas Jr.’s interests. It is, effectively, a case study into an open season on the art market.
Open Season, referencing those times during which certain hunting regulations are lifted, suggests an occasionally liberating free-for-all, a sort of throwback to the Bakhtinian conception of the carnival and the psychological release and escape it inspires. In other words, an open season cannot exist without an accompanying regimentation of society whose forced order can be briefly relaxed. It is in this regard that the phrase parallels art collecting. The act of acquiring can engender feelings of euphoria, but life’s practicalities rarely allow for it to constitute a consistent reality. Flanders Gallery and Allen Thomas Jr. use this interpretive lens to present works by artists Keliy Anderson-Staley, Tim Briner, Jesse Burke, Katrina d’Autremont, Ian F.G. Dunn, Nils Ericson, Dan Estabrook, Jody Fausett, Taj Forer, Anthony Goicolea, Allison Hunter, Michael Itkoff, Bill Jacobson, Sara Anne Johnson, Carrie Levy, Chris McCaw, Pamela Pecchio, Kristine Potter, Francesca Romeo, Kerry Skarbakka, Tema Stauffer, Bill Sullivan, Tim Tate, Brian Ulrich, Burk Uzzle, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Shen Wei, Jeff Whetstone, and Cosmo Whyte. While the artists are included, to a degree, because they illustrate an “open season” in the collecting habits of Allen Thomas Jr., many of them are also struggling with other instances of release and escape from the restrictions of contemporary living.
Artists such as Nils Ericson, Jesse Burke, and Jeff Whetstone, in their treatments of guns and hunting accoutrements, quite literally address the theme. Hunting is a complicated pastime in contemporary society; while it is popular enough to be regulated, is a routine activity for many, and produces consumable resources, it is no longer the necessity it once was in today’s world of supermarkets. Instead, it can be a divisive activity, with some arguing it as a necessary understanding of food sources and others claiming it as animal cruelty. Is the open season really a release, or is it instead a disappearing survival skill? In the rear view of the subject in Ericson’s Chad Shooting and the masked man in Burke’s Open Country, these photographs work to distill personality solely into its pursuits, leaving the viewer to piece together the individuals’ makeup and the extent of their release exclusively using his outlook towards their activities.
The works of Tema Stauffer and Dan Estabrook utilize the body to illustrate the idea of place, instead of a moment, as functioning as the psychological escape behind “open season.” Stauffer’s portraits of tattooed and costumed young men demonstrate the external expression of individuality. Unlike the hunting figures defined through their activities, these figures are relieved of describing themselves through action by use of their physical choices of liberation. They wear their catharsis with pride, whether through the permanent symbols of personal branding or the elusiveness of Halloween-esque garb. Conversely, while Stauffer’s subjects seek to differentiate themselves from the nameless hordes as an escape from their typical surroundings, Dan Estabrook’s Nine Symptoms series provides his subject a freedom from constructing any identity through the fragmentation of the body. The luxury of anonymity is afforded only through breaking down a person’s parts to an impersonal list of ailments like Sleeplessness, Loss of Appetite, and Shortness of Breath.
In the works of artists like Carrie Levy and Kristine Potter, one finds carnal impulses as the primary vehicle for psychological escape. Carrie Levy’s nudes suggest all of the vulnerability that a body shed of its socially-required clothing can imply. Kristine Potter’s black-and-white images from The Gray Line depict camouflaged soldiers disappearing into landscapes. Only their uniforms hint at any institutionalized excuse for violence. Their seamless transitions into nature’s trappings seem to imply the naturalness of the existence – and possibly desire – for violence and animalistic behaviors, an idea underscored by Tim Briner’s updating of the wild man in Nathan, Boonville, North Carolina.
Other artists like Keliy Anderson-Staley and Cosmo Whyte consider the force of nostalgia as a release from the strictures of life. Anderson-Staley achieves this feat through formal approaches. By choosing as her medium the tintype, a popular nineteenth-century photographic process, she immediately imbues her works with a sort of falsified past. The landscapes that she records are in current existence, but they are framed in such a way as to appear as part of an idealized past, a past that frees a viewer from conforming to the realities of her everyday existence. Whyte instead explores nostalgia as a part of reality. In his Heirloom series, the figure is cocooned and cradled within neckties, the only inheritance left to him by his father. In the images, those neckties offer both comfort and a shield from the very real process of grieving.
It is perhaps the work of Tim Tate which best exemplifies the boundaries set around the exhilaration of an open season. His video works are encased in glass structures that hearken back to religious reliquaries. Pursuits like art and spirituality are in many ways the ultimate release, but they can rarely be considered in toto and unchecked. Reliquaries are the expression of reigning in the limitless. Their sacred nature is that they capture a vast abstracted force within a contained physical fragment. In this regard, they echo the major challenge of collecting: to form a limited assortment of materials meant to describe and outline an entire personal religion of hunting and gathering the perfect piece.
Lauren Turner

Exhibition Images

  • Carrie Levy

    Carrie Levy
  • Chris McCaw

    Chris McCaw
  • Anthony Goicolea

    Anthony Goicolea
  • Sarah Anne Johnson

    Sarah Anne Johnson
  • Dan Estabrook

    Dan Estabrook
  • Shen Wei

    Shen Wei
  • Jeff Whetstone

    Jeff Whetstone
  • Francesca Romeo

    Francesca Romeo