By Christian Sarkar
The Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston is hosting Corpocracy, a group exhibition surveying culture jamming, intervention, satire and viral strategies in relation to capitalism and corporate culture through the works of 13 artists. Corpocracy is the absurd reality of our society in which corporations and their interests are allowed to have dominance over the economic and political systems. Through the subversive imagination, the artist works toward a transformation of social consciousness.
The Station Museum in Houston, Texas has always distinguished itself by raising its fist and its conscience far above the high water marks along Buffalo Bayou.
The current show - Corporacy (rhymes with "hypocrisy") is no exception. The group exhibition confronts the role of business in society - how the pursuit of profit has drowned out human morality, leaving a path of economic, environmental, and socio-political destruction across the globe.
Curator Alan Schnitger explains: "We wanted to demonstrate the different views artists have about corporate capitalism. The Station Museum has always been about art and activism. Our goal is change minds - awaken the public."
The exhibition features the work of 13 artists who challenge our everyday assumptions. Novelists Walker Percy and Kurt Vonnegut both compared writers to canaries in a coal mine. And so it is with the show. The artists are warning us of the consequences of our choices - from unbridled consumerism to laissez-faire capitalism.
I met a few of the artists at the opening, and asked them about their work. Here's a summary, more links to details at fixcapitalism.com >>
Ron English explores the world of Popaganda, brand imagery and advertising through the subversion of commercial icons, liberation of public billboards, public murals, surrealist paintings, and culture jamming on a commercial scale. One of the most prolific and recognizable artists alive today, English has bombed the global landscape with unforgettable images, on the street, in museums, in movies, books and television. His MC Supersized was the obese fast-food mascot featured in the hit movie "Supersize Me."
Ron English with MC Supersized and Fat Tony - "The supermarket is my art gallery. These obese mascots are what they would look like if they ate their own products."
An American Indian artist originally from Houston, Texas, Clark Fox deconstructs corporate emblems and utilizes their basic constituents to explore and redefine our social and political identity. The "Godfather of modern underground art," his work is included in the Vogel Collection as well as the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Museum of Art in Washington D.C.
Das Kapital, by Clark Fox. A member of the Cherokee Nation, Fox is "off the reservation" fighting injustice through his art. "I see myself as a history painter through the use of icons."
Born in Hong Kong, Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung now lives and works in New York. His digital collages of popular culture adopt the form of advertising in a cartoon like mythology. Through various media he explores the nature of digital communication while touching on issues such as identity, politics, sexuality, and power. His Make It Rain project challenges the very notion of money.
Kenneth Tin-Kin Hung's Siddhartha Obama (2009) is about the hopes and expectations around the world after Obama's inauguration. "People saw him as a god, and that is what I tried to capture - the impossible tasks he faced."
Packard Jennings is a visual artist based in Oakland who uses appropriation, humor and interventionist tactics to address political and corporate transgressions against public interests. Working across a wide range of media he portrays fictions of dissent, absurdist morality, and alternate future worlds through subverted advertising tactics and other forms of propaganda.
Packard Jennings' Business Reply is a small, sixteen-page instructional pamphlet put inside the postage-paid, business-reply envelopes that come with junk mail offers and mailed back to the company of origin. The artist calls it a "guide to achieving an anarcho-primitivist utopia."
A native of Mexico City, Yoshua Okón's work is like a series of near-sociological experiments executed for the camera through blending staged situations, documentation and improvisation. He questions habitual perceptions of reality and truth, selfhood and morality.
Yoshua Okon and Freedom Fries: Still Life (2014) - "In fascism, you knew you were being controlled, but now in this consumer society our very ignorance gives us the illusion of freedom."
Doubt and humor are essential in Spanish-born Eugenio Merino's work. He addresses the effects of branding on capitalism and its contribution to rising inequality through the use of satire in the form of paintings, installations, and sculpture.
Eugenio Merino - stuck between Always Putin (2014) and Always Bush (2014). "The sculptures are about how certain politicians cast a long shadow over the countries they rule - propped up by corporations. Now, corporations are the new dictators."
See also: "Art & Response: An Interview with Michael D'Antuono." Learn how his painting (image below) was "banned" from e-bay, whilst real KKK paraphernalia isn't! >>
Corpocracy runs till February 14, 2016. So if you get down to Houston, don't miss it.
Station Museum of Contemporary Art, 1502 Alabama St., Houston, TX 77004.
The Station Museum is privately funded and directed by Jim and Ann Harithas. A former director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston as well as the Corcoran Museum of Art, Jim Harithas has dedicated his life to art and activism. The museum helped Houston top Forbes list of "America's coolest cities."
Christian Sarkar is an artist, activist, and entrepreneur. He is the founder of the $300 House Project and manages a strategy and marketing consultancy in his spare time. He is the co-author of Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again?
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