The Reconstituted Memories of Daniel Finch and David Kasparek
The term appropriation is often coupled with contemporary art, specifically the work of conceptual artists of the sixties and seventies. It describes the act of borrowing an existing image [often already loaded with meaning] and reintroducing it into a new context that changes the content, often subverting the original meaning. The artwork of both Daniel Finch and David Kasparek utilizes appropriation, but with resulting imagery far removed from any social critique. In their work one does not find satire or cynicism, but instead a romanticized journey through the subject matter depicted. Both revisit popular imagery from formative teenage years, deconstructing it to rebuild from that debris a new image that reflects the original memory now in the present.
A group exhibition is a unique event for an artist, as work previously functioning as a monologue is transformed through dialogue with a second body of pre-existing work. In the context of Transition, the paintings of Daniel Finch and David Kasparek are now defined by how they relate to one another. A noticeable similarity is how both artists are influenced by the southern Californian skater culture of the eighties, and borrow heavily from its popular imagery.
An interesting fact is that both artists, now thirty-five years of age, grew up far removed from California: Finch in Georgia and Kasparek in western Pennsylvania. Their teenage interpretations of what was edgy and fashionable was received second-hand through youth magazines and poor-quality VHS tapes. Still images or distorted videos of extreme sports appear quite foreign and exotic to someone not present at the live event. This sense of curiosity and wonder removed from direct experience obviously has its place in helping us understand the images utilized by both artists.
The stills chosen by Daniel Finch are an attempt to create a pantheon of childhood heroes. King Kong and Evel Knievel are models instructing adolescents on ideas of masculinity and adventure. The artistís application of paint replicates the television tube itself, and how color and light are simultaneously delivered to the viewer. Bars assembled from individual dots of pure color merge to produce a flickering image reminiscent of poor video.
David Kasparek borrows imagery directly from Action Now, an eighties lifestyle magazine that focused on extreme sports such as skateboarding, BMX, and surfing as well as alternative music. These appropriated photographs take on new meaning as they are cropped by the artist and placed within larger abstract compositions. The colors and motifs screen-printed onto plywood are not arbitrary but have been culled from the advertisements and fashion found within the same magazine. Kasparekís larger panels reveal the use of plywood and polyurethane, both materials essential to the construction of skateboards and half-pipe ramps.
Both bodies of work provide evidence of an investigation, as viewers are welcomed to witness the revisitation of adolescence. Finch does not want us to examine our relationship with Bruce Lee just as Kasparek is not asking one to relate to a Black Flag mosh pit. The two artists invite spectators along on their respective journeys of reconstruction. This act of deconstructing and reconstituting a memory is what we recognize and respond to.
Appropriation has been a tool of postmodern art since Marcel Duchamp placed a urinal [unaltered] within an art exhibition, through to the present as Richard Prince re-photographs Marlboro cigarette ads to question the stereotype of the American cowboy. But in the work of Finch and Kasparek one does not find either cynicism or social critique. Both artists work meticulously to create an authentic image based in their personal memories that transcends a mere replica. This labor-intensive approach is at times foreign to a postmodern mentality that would readily accept Finch projecting a video loop of King Kong or Kasparek displaying the unaltered pages of Action Now. While an installation completed in this manner would drastically change the content, Transition exposes the artistsí lengthy examinations of the past.
This meticulous reconstitution is the heart of both bodies of work. What does an adolescent memory look like when scrutinized as a thirty-five year old? As one examines a past action [now in the present] this recreation naturally becomes autonomous and original. The artwork of Daniel Finch and David Kasparek testifies to this occurrence of self-examination. These reverent works are not intended to subvert or question, but instead pay homage to a memory as they attempt to reconnect with it once again.