Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Artist of the Week: Hollis Brown Thornton

VHS, permanent marker on paper, 22 1/2"x 30", hbt10-p002, 2010

Hollis Brown Thornton is an artist from South Carolina that I first discovered on
20x200, an awesome online gallery chock full of affordable limited edition art prints. I actually purchased a print of his very cool VHS drawing above as the gift I gave my video-editing hubby on our wedding day this past April.
The tall stacks of videotapes reminded me of the precarious piles that used to collect on the shelf of the entertainment center under our boxy TV set, with titles that told the story of my youth. Dirty Dancing and Footloose shared the same tape, recorded without commercial breaks off of HBO, while Ladyhawke always had to be fast-forwarded through to get to Grease. I cannot think of one movie without the other. Same with Beetlejuice and Back to the Future.  
Osiris Mountain, archival pigment print, available in various sizes on 20x200
My Galaxies, permanent marker on paper,
8 1/4"x 10 1/4", hbt08-p051, 2008, $600

In these drawings, Thornton uses permanent marker to create portraits of defunct technology. I like the striated effect of the magic marker, another vestige of childhood. I especially appreciate the idea that the material itself is not exactly archival; it will fade away (if left in direct sunlight and not framed properly) just like the technology that he so lovingly depicts in his work. 
He works with acrylic paint as well, and also employs a process called pigment transfer in some of his drawings that he provides step-by-step instructions for on his website.

Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe, pigment transfer on paper, 8 1/4"x 10 1/4", hbt10-p056, Edition of 5*, 2010, $100

Toucan Sams, 
pigment transfer on paper 
8 1/4"x 10 1/4", 
hbt10-p061, Edition of 5, 
2010, $100
While I did like the print above, I don’t totally love his manipulations of old family photos. Especially the pixelated paintings that he describes saying, "They represent the idea our physical reality is becoming more and more intertwined with the digital world. There is also a transformation that is almost cartoonish when the image is manually converted to a pixel image, reminiscent of childhood as well as old video games."
I think it’s probably just a personal prejudice of mine, but I’m kind of tired of nostalgia as a subject matter (as well as the idea of revering technology that is becoming obsolete). This definitely became clearer when reading various statements he'd made in my searches on the internet. And I quote:
"It relates to how the beliefs or values of one culture or time period are going to change or be completely obsolete in the future, and how our relationship with reality changes, with reality becoming more and more of a virtual or digital one today."

Sometimes an artist's explanation can really ruin the work for me, either over-simplifying it or being too purposefully vague. But I do love the idea of portraits of old objects as a representation of someone’s interests, as a way to read a life. Then again, I might be reading too much into it.  
- Cathleen
[Photos courtesy of the artist’s website, his Big Cartel shop, and 20x200]

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