Clark V. Fox
Curated by Mary Heilmann
February – March 2009
(Opening reception Thursday, February 5, 6:00 – 8:00pm)
“His iconic imagery combines to convey a rich take on reality, the state of the world, our country, and his own unusual psychic identity and nature. The familiar images of JFK, phallic Planters Peanut man, big dimply oranges, Abe Lincoln, Chinese Characters, ears of corn, buffalo, maps, generic icons that are poetic stand-ins for much more than is seen, simile, metonymy, synecdoche.” – Mary Heilmann
History painters have always faced the ordeal of navigating the murky waters of the past while immersed in the tumult of the present. New York-based artist Clark V. Fox comes to this challenge well prepared. Armed with a wide array of styles, ranging from Pop-Art to Romantic portraiture and Dutch still-life painting, Fox skillfully employs his media to depict a side of history not often told in the textbooks. Of Cherokee and Powhatan descent, and having spent many years living and working in Washington D.C., Fox has a uniquely keen, probing perspective on our Nation and its past that is both smart and fresh, particularly within our nation’s current political climate. Through a multitude of icons and imagery, he confronts American capitalist culture and its implications. While many of the images in his arsenal may insinuate the mass-produced and shallow, the painterly, lush surfaces and intense, vibrant colors of the works shed light on the immense amount of time the artist spends on both the work itself and learning about his subjects.
Clark’s series, 200 Nafta Oranges (left) was begun after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994 – all modeled after fruit Fox purchased from a Mexican National on the side of the freeway. The humble commodity is given an elevated status through their individual treatment, vibrant backgrounds and pristine, glossy surfaces. Fox underlines the importance of such mundane items as oranges in international politics as well as how such items are imperative to an individual’s survival and identity. Each is done in the style of traditional still-life painting but, when arranged within a regimented grid, the effect is one of mi nimal abstraction, blurring the viewer’s initial perception – much like the perpetually swaying debate over the Agreement.
Habana Cuba / 26 Julio Shrine (right), named for the revolutionary movement that brought down the Cuban Batista government and eventually brought Fidel Castro to power, is a perfect example of Fox’s use of mixed media and imagery. Weaving personal symbols with corporate icons such as Coca Cola and Planters Mr. Peanut (the ultimate empty shell), the diorama-type boxes serve as enigmatic markers for monumental moments in recent history. While sifting through the visual clutter of the work, one gains an appreciation for the artist’s beautiful treatment of texture and pattern. Like all of his work, the shrines require the viewer to take their time absorbing them visually, while at the same time providing substance for them to muse over in relation to each event or person being memorialized.
On view at CUE Art Foundation, Fox’s first solo exhibition in New York for over thirty years, are over 300 works, widely ranging in dates, media and subjects. Yet, despite the abundance of work, Clark’s resolve remains consistent – he masterfully holds a mirror in front of the American psyche, cleverly persuading the viewer to re-evaluate what they see.