Ratio 3 is pleased to present Inside us all there is a part that would like to burn down our own house, a solo show of new work by Geof Oppenheimer, October 28th to December 10th, 2011.
Working with diverse media, Oppenheimer takes the formal manifestation of civic value as his subject, interrogating the ways in which political and social structures are encoded in images and objects. It is a practice situated at the intersection of art and politics, but in such a way that neither art nor politics is reducible to the other term.
Included in this exhibit is a new suite of sculptures, collectively titled Modern Ensembles. Working with a pyro-technician formally with the Disney Corporation, Oppenheimer developed a series of custom made charges of various explosive chemicals that where detonated within the voids of ballistic Plexiglas cubes. Having been set off, the detonations leave a residue of the explosion within each cube. It is an aesthetic of violence — a violent history but one that is unmoored from context to become free-floating signifier. This disconnect between violence and context renders the experience of violence abstract as it is freed from politics and morality. With a seductive beauty, these sculptures conflate the traditional ideologies of minimalist sculpture with notions of the corporeal pull of violence that pervades our contemporary world.
A suite of five pigment prints titled Social Failure and Black Signs will be on view as part of the exhibition as well. This project was a culmination of a yearlong research project undertaken at the Special Collections Research Center center at the University of Chicago into the history of twentieth century political interviews. The prints feature excerpts from interviews with political luminaries such as Castro, McNamara, and Reagan, where they discuss the failures in their own ideological systems. The resulting texts, removed from context and held aloft by a hand model become a kind of broadcast as well as poetry of fallibility.
Also on exhibit is a high definition video, titled Anthems . This four minute and forty-two second video is an investigation into social mapping and pattern-making. For centuries, the pageantry of military spectacle has been an umbrella for people to come together under one body politic. The drum core is a holdover from this cultural history. In the video, a confrontational situation, both visually and sonically, is set up between groupings of musicians marching in formation on screen. Shifting formation, and with superimposed images, the marchers are simultaneously playing four different national anthems. The audio tracks of the performance are highly edited and mixed so that the sounds of the individual anthems are lost in a wall of sound. Over the course for the video the sound and imagery build to a crescendo of incomprehension and then fades out to pure abstract blur that is devoid of any kind of representational mark. It is a violent imposition of different social structures upon one another. Produced with the drum and marching core of Rickover Naval Academy in Chicago, Illinois, Anthems was commissioned by SITE, Santa Fe for the exhibition Agitated Histories.
Geof Oppenheimer was born in Washington, D.C. in 1973. He received his BFA from the Maryland Institute, College of Art (1996) and his MFA from University of California, Berkeley (2001). He has exhibited at The Project, New York (2006 and 2008), Aspen Art Museum (2010), LAX><ART (2009), PS1 Contemporary Arts Center (2006), The Contemporary Museum, Baltimore (2011), and SITE Santa Fe (2011). He currently lives and works in Chicago, where he is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago. This is his first solo exhibition at Ratio 3.