Savage Sentimentality presents a group show of painters and sculptors of unique backgrounds and interests connected by a tenuous relationship to sentiment. Specifically, many of the practices included allude to and/or embrace sentiment while simultaneously ravaging it, either with a brutish material response or vice versa – a subject matter that contradicts the sensitivity of material handling.
Sentiment may be defined as appealing to an emotional state, as opposed to a state of reason. Historically, within art, sentiment has often been associated with kitsch. Traditionally, kitsch’s use of sentimentality (in aesthetic terms, minus the bias of high/low culture debates) operates primarily as a corrective aesthetic experience to the acceleration and anxiety of modernity. The use of sentiment and nostalgia counters this uncertainty by returning to continuity, providing an experience grounded in the rhythms and meters of daily life – a call to all things intimate, wholesome, and known. Aesthetically, we see this manifest in an affirmation of the everyday through repetitions of the familiar, playing with tropes and motifs that embed viewers in a sense of conventionality, a simple and contained aesthetic experience within a closed system of signs.
While the individual artists included in this exhibition pull on a myriad of sources broadly considered sentimental in nature, the end result is much different than and outside of the effects of kitsch. Instead of being a sentimental regress into a state of comfort, or a carefully maintained closed system of signs, the result is an acknowledgment and active agitation of that state. The artists in this exhibition often achieve this through a balance of a raw material directness co-mingled with emotive charm, seemingly to tempt a calculated betrayal of the sentimental within the execution of their works. If a common criticism of kitsch or sentimentality is that it creates aesthetic depletion through repetition, these artists arguably give aesthetic value to that depletion.
In the works of these varied artists is a complicated set of tensions centered on a re-intensification of the experience of time, as well as evidence of a shift in thought regarding the role of sentiment and history within contemporary practices. While this practice is one based almost entirely on the ceaseless activity of exhuming and rediscovering the past, it does so in an effort to continually intensify the present. As such, summoned historical memory is trivialized. Ultimately, the artists included in this exhibition amplify and enact this savagery through the articulation of an aporia at the moment between the rationality of conceptually-driven practice(s) and pure uncomplicated emotion by creating a detour into the machinations of these poles.
Josh Dildine, Raymie Iadevaia, Cole James, Quinton Jones McCurine, Annelie McKenzie, Mandy Lyn Perez, Jason Ramos, Ana Rodriguez, Emily Silver, Jason Stopa, Emily Sudd