Dissident Art, which critiques the Ruling Class’s perfidies and crimes against humanity -- whether in Hitler’s Germany, Stalin’s Soviet Union or Bush/Obama’s America, has a long and significant role in western art history. What comes to mind? George Grosz. Picasso’s Guernica. Goya’s Saturn Devouring His Children. Banksy’s Fuck the Police.
In today’s N.S.S.A. or National Security States of America, a/k/a the American Empire, Steven Gagnon’s work may be considered Dissident Art, since it is simply an in-your-face commentary on the economic and political realities of living in the U.S.A.
His show called “False Profits” at Vertu Fine Art in Boca Raton (March 22 - April 22, 2012) appropriates the traditional symbols representing America, including the U.S. Dollar and the American Flag, as well as mega-corporate logos to point out the realpolitik of today’s corporate-government frauds.
“False Profits,” of course, is a pun on the “false prophets” of bible fame, referring to religious leaders who deceive their followers by pretending to have insider knowledge, while taking advantage of their blind obedience and their money. “False profits,” then refers to the American brand of crony capitalism based on lies and fraud, backed up by the Pentagon and the U.S. Armed Forces, which is the defacto enforcement arm of the global mafia that bombs and invades non-compliant nation-states and murders civilians around the world under the phony guise of bringing them the false religions of “democracy” and “consumerism.”
Mr. Gagnon’s wall sculpture called “Money” (46 x 72 x 2), for example, is a Dollar Sign made of melted together plastic toy soldiers attached to a wood panel.
His “New World Order” (47-1/2 x 47-1/2 x 2) is also made of melted together plastic toy soldiers under an acrylic sheet which has the notorious masonic All Seeing Eye atop a Pyramid, as seen on Federal Reserve Notes, a/k/a US Dollars.
Another wall sculpture called “Old Glory” is composed of melted together toy soldiers, who are underneath the American Flag, emphasizing that it is always clueless American soldiers who die for the global expansion of the American Empire.
Mr. Gagnon also takes on the consumer pseudo-culture with two serigraphs. The first called “Hope” takes the iconic Obama “Hope” poster by Shepard Fairey, but instead depicts a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, the declasse’ beer which has become a status symbol for young hipsters.
The second serigraph entitled “Progress” shows the six-pack of beer with three cans lying on their side, as if successfully drunk by the beer drinker who was full of “Hope” when he or she started drinking.
This ironic take on the progressive slogans of Hope and Progress morphs the so-called Soviet Realism propaganda images of the 2008 Obama presidential campaign into the contemporary age of the creeping Obama Police State.
Subverting easily identified American iconography is an ongoing theme in Mr. Gagnon’s work as previous multiples have included an American Flag image with $100 dollar bills underneath the Stars & Stripes as well as a $100 dollar bill imprinted with a Tide Detergent-like logo which simply says “Bribe.” That print is called “Money Laundering.”
Some of Mr. Gagnon’s previous projects in Europe included an auto project in which a Trabant, an East German car, was melded with the West German Mercedes to symbolize the “unification” of the two Germanies, when the Berlin Wall came down.
Another project called “Border Cruiser,” presented at this exhibition, was a video installation inside a Ford Crown Victoria -- his comment on the so-called illegals or undocumented guest workers in the United States.
In his artist statement, Mr. Gagnon says “My interdisciplinary conceptually driven work strives to articulate the American perspective. Although the United States is vast and a toss salad of cultures, beliefs, and races, there is an underlying attitude that is distinctly from this country. It is this point of view that I aim to capture.
“In a land known for abundance and driven by consumerism, we are inundated and influenced by images and material goods,” he continues. “My goal is to play upon the symbolism of the familiar and subvert it by juxtaposition. It is through these new and unlikely combinations that I can begin to expose the common thread that runs through a land known for its diversity and extremes, thus allowing me to better understand my culture and ultimately myself.”
More information about Mr. Gagnon’s work can be found at his website www.StevenGagnon.com . He invites visits to his studio at the Art Center South Florida on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach.
*** Author Uri Dowbenko is an artist, curator, writer and publisher. Some of his work can be found at www.UriDowbenko.com and www.NewImprovedArt.com.