How do we process the constant stream of information that, thanks to modern technology, seems to bombard us every minute? This is the question Georges Le Chevallier tackles with his exhibition of mixed media paintings currently on view at Artspace.
The question could not be more timely in our post-Sept. 11 world, a world in which information has taken on a considerable sense of urgency. Le Chevallier’s exhibition, Semi-Autobiographical Psychological Landscapes, attempts to integrate fundamental questions about the quality of life in the information age with corresponding painting styles and media. Combining sand, burlap, tile mosaic, photography and other media, his paintings are far from traditional. The paintings range from the serious to the satirical, the darkly humorous to the intensely personal and, of course, at times they contain all of these elements.
The mixed media canvas “De Tal Palo” falls into this last category. The title is taken from a longer phrase found on the canvas that recalls the adage (in rough translation), “the fruit does not fall far from the tree.” At 63 inches by 147 inches, this is the largest work in the show (the smallest, an image-diary series of nine paintings that records a period the artist spent in Eastern Europe in 2001, are 14 inches by 14 inches). The painting confronts the viewer with terrifying images, such as that of a Seattle policeman in riot gear at the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in 1999, and pairs them with the absurd–in this case a satirical story, in Spanish, about cats on Viagra copulating until their deaths. A news ticker-like stream of written words in three languages navigates the length of the canvas, reading, “mustard gas … Kid Rock … mastubación … murder … you seduced me with your comfort.” In the middle of the canvas (actually a diptych) resides that icon of cynicism, Bart Simpson.
“All the Demons Burning Inside of Me” (mixed media on canvas, 70 inches by 67 inches) pays tribute to the contradictions which give Le Chevallier reason to create. “Without them,” he says, “there would be no cause to get out of bed in the morning.” In the painting, on either side of a yellow and orange column of fire, is a window framed in burlap. Above one window, in French, are the words “my god my torment,” and above the other, “my devil my sky.” The requisite search for meaning in human life embroiled in contradiction is the underlying theme of Le Chevallier’s work. For him as for most artists, the question, not the answer, is the essence of art.
Born to a French father and a Puerto Rican mother, Le Chevallier grew up in San Juan and has since lived in Los Angeles, Madrid and New York City. He settled with his wife, Carrie, in Raleigh in 2000. Le Chevallier describes himself as “just a painter caught in my times”–a telling remark, since he is a painter and not a multimedia graphic designer. Asked why, like so many of his contemporaries, he chooses not to explore the possibilities afforded by the very technology he questions, he answered simply that he would like to bring society back to painting. Rather than ride the current of “a culture of automated domination,” Le Chevallier favors the traditional method of painting, to call attention to the fact we can easily be swept into the annals of mass media.