Even without the show's title, the viewer knows immediately upon entering the gallery that there is something both archaeological and pseudo about what they are seeing.
There are portraits of great men we should know. At least we think that are great and think that we should know them. The truth is they are portraits of the idea of being wise, of being learned, of being important. But they are not of anyone in particular who possesses those traits.
The portraits bear x's on their faces or around them. They are black and white and the x's or other strokes or designs or scrawling lines around them are in color.
Some of the faces are more distinct than others, which are blurred or have lines painted on them as if the skull is showing through.
The men are serious and poised and posed. They look like scholars and philosophers, and their faces bear expressions of anger or disappointment or, on some, simply stillness. Strangely, they seem angry at or disappointed in the viewer. Or they seem blank, looking beyond or through the viewer.
They are the faces of no man and of every man. They remind us that there were great men and we don't always remember them. But we should. They are not fodder for archeology. Except that they are. Not because they are tellers of fact. But instead because they are tellers of our stories, as art so often is.
Other pieces in the show are darker and more tribal, with eyes staring out from canvases painted in designs in blues and reds, oranges and yellows. They both frighten and invite. They seem not to be our own archaeology, but instead that of another culture, perhaps one less "civilized."
But in this show, the viewer cannot help but connect them to the works that surround them. These pieces may not represent the history we want to tell. But it is history that we must own. We have our own tribes and darkness among us. Our history is not all made of noble men.
A few pieces in the show look like maps, including "street fewer" with glowing silver streaks and curves and lines and shapes in blue and red and white and black. The work seems to imply that it can tell you where you need to go, but what it reveals is nothing but confusion.
The same can be said for the for the figure in the oldest piece in the show titled simply, "the business man." Strokes of black emanate from the man's head as if he's going in too many directions. The background is graffiti and, at first glance, the suit jacket he wears looks more like a doctor's coat. He's any man in any business on any day. His image cannot tell us where he is going or where it has been. It, like the "maps," portrays nothing but confusion.
All of the faux archaeology in the show feigns to give us information about a culture long gone. But they are not artifacts. They are an artist's musing of what our artifacts might be. And that is what is so clever about this show. It means nothing, as the history is "faked." But it means everything, because what is being faked is too close to our own history to not reveal at least some truth.
Some say it is our histories that tell our stories. But often it is our art that is far better at that task.
See the show at Jacques Lamy Gallery through January 10. (The artist, Lionel Lamy, is gallery owner and artist Jacques Lamy's son. Well, you know what they say about the apple...)
1607 Dragon Street