Art of the Steal at Extra, Extra

This month at Extra, Extra, “PRE-CAREER RETROSPECTIVE: WORKS FROM 2009-2010“.  The title of this exhibit sets you up with the premise, a play on words, traditional words relating to the traditional art world.

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Installation view, Brad Troemel’s Pre-Career Retrospective 2009-2010

Brad Troemel is young and from Chicago.  He is a prolific artist.  There’s an immense amount of artwork on display dating from 2009-2010, that’s one year. (note the obvious) The artist and curators shared an acknowledged veil of secrecy where one or the other was in the dark at one time during their collaboration.  All of the artwork was essentially taken from Brad’s blog, printed, then taped, in grid format to three white walls. Brad himself appropriates to make his art, you question with so much artwork how much he actually made.  It’s a free art world, cc.  The print outs are a standard 8 1/2 x 11, you have to look and stand close to each image.  By the time you get through the first wall a transformation happens. You begin to feel like you’re sitting at your computer screen, looking at a blog or stumbling.  Brad creates work freely and everywhere, which reflects his interest conversing online. Eventually his overwhelming sense of freedom over takes you as well; art is everywhere.

Stolen from, “Artificial Rock Tag” 2010

The curators at Extra, Extra could have decided to merely project his tumblr site rather than use print outs.  The show, by printing the pieces, displays an idea of the art object.  When viewing artwork in person there is an aura an art object projects that creates a reaction.  This is the beauty of art that the internet could never replace.  The object Brad makes may not even exist to begin with, then it’s blogged and finally printed out.  This makes the art object 3rd removed from its actual origin.  Imagine instead of standing in front of an Anish Kapoor sculpture you are standing in front of a print out of an Anish Kapoor sculpture.  The beauty, the aura would be lost.  Another show I saw recently that recalls this mindset was Urs Fischer at the New Museum, “Marguerite de Ponty“.  On the second floor entitled, “Service à la française”, he had a gallery full of objects that were screen printed onto mirrored cubes.  The objects; shoe, lighter, cheese, exist in real life as 3D.  By appropriating them and then screen printing them onto cubes they become, 3D, 2D, 3D objects.  I should also mention Fischer had cardboard cut outs like, “Ashanti”, which takes this further, a 3D, 2D, 3D, 2D, 3D object.  Most people I spoke to were either annoyed or disappointed by Fischer’s second floor, which I thought, of course.  And I enjoyed the objects even more because of this natural reaction. Considering Brad’s work exists online, it’s about this removal. His artwork is able to resonate and actually gets even better each time it’s copied–it’s nature is conceptual. Urs Fischer’s art objects are quite expensive though, whereas, the act of printing Brad’s work suggest they are free.

Stolen from and resized using GIMP, “We Flip Off an Animal Together” 2010

In “Pre-Career Retrospective”, there are quite a few middle fingers.  In one image a group of middle fingers flip off a black cat and in another, a foot is flipping you off.  A partially censored bean bag chair gives sentiment to the hilarity of censorship in general. Of course, there’s a banana.  There are a number of photoshopped images, other ways of lying and appropriating art through the net.  There’s no telling if an installation marked “Triangular Door” actually happened.  There’s also a stone carving of Thomas Knoll’s name spelled incorrectly, twice; Thomas Knolll, Thomas Knolll.  Thomas Knoll and his brother, Johnn Knoll, are the developers of Adobe Photoshop. As Brad pulls numerous references from art he does so equally in trends found while surfing the web. Shenanigans in the form of photoshopping are among them.  Like for instance this giant spider(?).

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Stolen from, “Setting a Dove Free in Target” Performance 2009

There’s video too.  The clips are short performances by the artist himself, ranging from physical feats pertaining to craft like a half court shot to tricks with microwaveable popcorn. Practice makes perfect.  By way of poking fun, there’s an underlying theme in both the videos and images that denounces the idea of commodity.  This solidifies his interest in a free art market, observing art by means of a website.  For example, one performance entitled, “Sprint”, takes place at a strip mall where Brad exits the “Back to Bed” shop and sprints to “AT&T”.  Some of the clips evoke the movies “Jackass” and “Jackass Number 2”, in which skateboarding daredevils from West Chester, PA, perform juvenile stunts.  Brad trumps “Jackass”-es by supplying the art form.


You can go to Extra, Extra this month to see the show or you could go to Brad’s tumblr.  This is where the true allure of this show lies, in the boundary of experiencing art through a physical space, an organization and the internet, a conceptual space that’s still in it’s adolescence. If you think about, they’re talking about changing the way art is made and exhibited reminiscent of the Fluxus art movement.  Brad’s work depends on using the accessibility of collaborating via the world wide web and creating work outside the structure of what would be considered the art environment.  His artwork beholds the charm and wit of work made during Fluxus’ stride, but has the attention span of the average web surfer, like us. What if the internet existed in 1962?  Artists have been learning a new medium through interacting online allying new spaces to support them.  Brad takes this route through Web 2.0 employing his tumblr blog and without today’s thriving D.I.Y. galleries–another essential element that flourished during the Fluxus’ era— there would be no way to see Brad’s work by means of context. A gallery makes you spend time with the artwork, conceptual or not. Online most people do not spend more than 3 minutes on one website. Most of the artwork we see is through the latter. And like I said before, the art object can be a beautiful thing.

On view, NOW, show ends March 29th.
Extra, Extra 2222 Sepviva St.
Philadelphia, PA 19125.
Gallery Hours, Fri-Mon 12-4pm.
Check their website for updates, there will be a video up of Brad Troemel’s artist talk.
Full disclosure, I’m performing at extra, extra next month