Tucker Neel is an artist, freelance writer, and independent curator living and working in Los Angeles, CA. Embracing a polymorphous practice, Neel utilizes drawing, painting, sculpture, video, installation, and online communication to create works that investigate personal, public, and political attempts to solidify memory in a material form. To view his complete projects please visit tuckerneel.com
He holds an MFA from Otis College of Art and Design and a BA in Art History and Visual Arts from Occidental College. As a curator he organized exhibitions for The Regent Galleries in downtown Los Angeles and the Bolsky Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design. His work has been reviewed in the L.A. City Beat newspaper, The Tennessean, Art Week, The Nashville Scene, The L.A. Times, on artforum.com, and on Flavorpill.com.
He regularly contributes art reviews to Artillery Magazine in Los Angeles, CA and ART LIES in Houston, TX. You can read these reviews at www.tuckerneel.wordpress.com.
He is also Marketing Manager for GYSTInk, an artist-run company offering software and services to artists. www.gyst-ink.com
My practice explores the memorializing impulses and collective experiences that inform individual and nationalist ideology. My work as an artist, curator, and writer is part of a unified but unabashedly polymorphous practice employing materials specific to each project. I often employ humor as a way to talk about uncomfortable subjects, and issues of great political importance. It is my goal to create works that pose formative problems that critically examine the rehearsed texts, hidden objects, lapses in judgment, jumbled narratives, and creases in history that implore us to remember and allow us to forget how we got to the present situation in the first place.
Many of my projects directly address the role decorative or intentionally hidden objects play in shaping political discourse and public opinion. For example, in one series of projects, I constructed a rickety wooden teleprompter and used it to record relatively unknown people reading famous speeches by political leaders. When watching videos of these unfamiliar faces stumbling through important and familiar texts the viewer is invited to question the ancillary role speech aides play in the transmission of information and how the ability to recite a text, seemingly from memory, places one in varying positions of authority and power. In another project, Party, from 2006 I recorded every US senator’s answering machine message and played these recordings using small contact speakers attached to inflated balloons arranged in a column in the gallery. As the balloons deflated, the voices got fainter and fainter, almost silent. This humorous work functions as a temporary monument to political and personal absence: the absence of a person who has to leave a message that stands in for a real conversation, and the absence of a politician who, for whatever reason, has to have someone or something else stand in for them.
My work also engages in questioning the celebratory artifices used to heighten experience and make events memorable. In Go Balloons! I filled a professional balloon drop net with hundreds of deflated polychromatic balloons. When hung from the ceiling this object is never actualized as a balloon drop, but is left as a testament to a sad and limp potentiality. This familiar yet often overlooked spectacle tool is made conspicuous, funny and a little discomforting. In other projects I alter political campaign memorabilia – buttons, life-size cutouts, banners, and party mascots - in order to examine the roles graphic design, scale and mass production, play in shaping political messages. In engaging with the visual trappings of souvenir objects, these works comment on how keepsakes and relics shape our memories of specific historical events.
As part of an ongoing research project investigating the intersections between personal and nationalist memory, I photographed the US Marine Corps Memorial and surrounding sites near Arlington Cemetery. By subtracting the recognizable figurative sculpture of the flag-raising at Iwo Jima from the top of the USMC memorial I revealed how this structure’s enormous plinth functions as a living, ever-changing testament to never-ending armed conflict. I am currently in conversations with the Marine Corps and The US Park Service to document the future changes this monument will undergo as the US concludes and begins conflicts in the future.
I am also very invested in exploring how technologies such as internet social networks, digital cameras and cell phones shape individual and collective understandings of important events. In one project addressing these concerns, I contacted over two-dozen individuals from around the world who posted their footage of Daft Punk’s 2006 performance at the Coachella Music Festival on Youtube. I compiled their footage together without regard to any specific timeline but instead to highlight their varying perspectives on the event. With sharp jumps between videos of varying quality, and a fractured soundtrack, the final looping 45 min. installation was both jarring and overwhelming, especially when projected life-size in the gallery. This collaborative project speaks to how new technologies are influencing the ways we communicate and share our memories with each other.
Issues of mundane memories and subjective communication abound in Confabulations, an ongoing project I have worked on since 2007, consisting of hundreds of 5.5 × 8.5 inch drawings I make during the unmemorable moments that comprise my spare time. These drawings are adamantly heterogeneous, avoiding any specific drawing style. Each drawing has an accompanying text and, taken together, they create a sort of semiotic game where meaning is always in flux. The drawings are exhibited in excerpted clusters, according to the desires of myself, the gallery director, curator, or any number of other invited guests, thus highlighting the specificity of one’s subjective understanding of another person’s experience. As drawings come off the wall on a weekly basis they are replaced by more drawings, some freshly made and delivered to the gallery. As a constantly changing installation, the work functions not as a diary, but instead as an ever-shifting, faulty and transitory memorial to an unattainable present.
My individual projects, be they text pieces instructing readers how to remake iconic flower arrangements, or videos of me trying to push over the Washington Monument, may address seemingly disparate concerns. But when viewed as part of a larger practice, each project contributes to an overarching investigation into how individuals, organizations, political interests, and businesses employ certain objects and actions in order to activate, solidify, or erase memories. It is my goal to excavate the material and social relationships underpinning these situations and in doing so tease out new meanings, unexpected forms, and ultimately redraw the boundaries inscribed by objects that separate past, present, and future.