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Bush League

Artist Taylor Carpenter’s first solo show at Wunderkammer

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


Young artists have always been at somewhat of a disadvantage within the art world. While needing to focus on an intense study of their chosen genre, style, and the numerous tools employed therein, these students must also be increasingly conscious of their “brand,” connecting to professionals within their field, and building whatever kind of spotlight they can on their artwork. And even when a young artist makes their break, gaining an opportunity to sell their art, they must guard against being taken advantage of by galleries and the art market itself, which many times uses up young artists quickly, turning them into fads. Due to this climate, it is always exciting to see young talent persevering and pursuing the life of a studio artist. It is even more so exciting to see a young artist developing a unique voice and enter the dialogue of the contemporary art world with a strong understanding of this arcane system of images and ideas.

Taylor Carpenter is a great example of the kind of young artist pursuing this world, and finding successes along the way. Carpenter’s first solo exhibition, entitled “Bush League,” is a clear indication of his knowledge of the contemporary art world. With its series’ of tight architectural graphite drawings, minimal colorfield paintings, and its use of installation elements, “Bush League” breaks from the majority of the exhibitions seen in northeast Indiana from a structural standpoint. This use of installation and multiple bodies of work within one exhibition provides the wider art world a concise understanding of the artist’s range and the syntax of their studio practice.

“Bush League” is a departure from Carpenter’s past work, which was primarily an exercise in draftsmanship. Influenced by scenes like “Juxtapose” and more “low-brow” systems within the art world, Carpenter produced gorgeous derivatives of this work. After breaking with this style, and and looking inward for a new direction, Carpenter began incorporating aspects of his past sporting practice into his work. As this concept evolved, the realm of athletics became a new substrate for Carpenter’s discourse on authority, systems of rule, validity, and expressions of success.

In pieces like “Marathon Man”, “Winning at Any and Every Cost,” “It’s a Stupid Game Anyways,” “The Greatest of all Time Forever and Ever Amen,” and “Star Power,” Carpenter produces highly stylized, precise color field paintings with perfect geometric patterns and grids, mimicking the line work found on basketball courts, soccer and football fields, and other forms of athletics. Throughout these pieces, the line work takes on varying levels of importance as they are bent, broken, and change colors wildly taking on different meanings, both formally and conceptually. In this aspect, Carpenter’s work takes cues from great artists throughout the 20th century, like Barnett Newman’s colorfield paintings and his “zips,” to Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella, and even evoking certain periods of Brice Marden’s work. With such a wide variety of visual references, Carpenter impresses the viewer with a treasure trove of connectivity, giving the pieces a bit more life. In addition to this colorfield and line work, Carpenter includes a number of trophies in these images. Totemic and frivolous, these representations of success via athletic participation are given primary visual importance, but very little true value in Carpenter’s work. Coming of age in a time when “everyone gets a trophy”, Carpenter’s pieces take a turn toward the cynical with this inclusion, critiquing systems of validity and authority, and questioning basic ideas of value. Carpenter poignantly identifies trophies as being a pop cultural construction and conglomeration of the Western concept of value, in that they change size, include gold-the long time set standard of value-and contain plaques to qualify how this value is being distributed. Carpenter’s trophies end up becoming broken, deformed, or comically stretched, over-compensating for their lack of true value.

In addition to these color field paintings, Carpenter includes detailed drawings of architectural structures as well as fictitious characters which inhabit this freshly constructed meta-universe that is based so much around sports. In this world, the architecture all wraps back into the world of “the game”, and these images include pieces like “The Big Game”, a beautiful rendering of a stadium, “Club House” a three-fourths view of home in a drafted out vignette, and “Away Game (scoreboard, bitch)”, which, as its title so eloquently describes, is a close up view of a massive scoreboard with the score itself being impossibly one-sided. In this last piece, Carpenter’s work references “the other” in his work, taking on the form of “The Snakes”, the most hated rivals of whoever is viewing his work. The Snakes are reference in the other two remaining pieces in “Bush League”, being “Snakes Helmet Decal and Pride Stickers”, a small hand drawn logo for the enemy-team, and “Number Fifty-Eight of the Snakes”, the only image of this elusive enemy, being a shadowy figure which can absorb and represent any non-admirable traits the viewing would like to imbue him with.

In the world of Taylor Carpenter and “Bush League,” the viewer finds themselves not meekly exploring a new world, but thrown directly into a narrative and space which has its own history and functions. Being a product of the internet age, Carpenter represents a new artist in our regional scene, being one that is fully at home and utilizing internet culture. And while this writer attributes so many visual references from an art historical perspective, Carpenter more than likely finds his inspiration from the likes of DIS Magazine, and other online sources and artists. It is refreshing to see new and young voices like this producing such fine work in our arts community. Their perspectives, connections, and challenges of the status quo must be seen not as counter to what is, but guideposts toward where the art world will be moving into the future.

“Bush League”
Oct 31-Nov 30
Wunderkammer Company
3402 Fairfield Ave, 46807

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.