Arch Gallery presents Steven Gagnon: Stimulus Package

Arch Gallery

November 12, 2009


November 19 – December 14, 2009

A Postmodern Exploration of
American Identity
Daniela Montana, Curator

1619 SW 13 Street
Miami, FL 33145
info [​at​] ArchGallery.US

Arch Gallery presents Steven Gagnon: Stimulus Package

Steven Gagnon’s STIMULUS PACKAGE is arguably a postmodernist exploration of the four cornerstones of American identity today: patriotism, faith, excess and speculation. Gagnon is an internationally recognized, innovative and influential artist in the growing Miami art scene, whose bold work elevates banal symbols of vernacular culture through re-contextualization and experimentation.

With a search for identity as a prevalent theme, Gagnon exposes the duality inherent in both consecrated and commonplace American icons. He defuses simple oppositional models of central versus peripheral imagery, each imbued with its conflicting ideology into a unified whole. In Acts of Faith, the mocking use of Durer’s classical image invoking the sacred is disarmingly juxtaposed upon lottery tickets, the most vernacular of instruments upon which the masses pray for a chance of a life of grandeur; the work is at once intimate, absurd and tragic.

Redneck Dreams provides a glimpse into the relationship between gender and power and the commodification of both. It draws attention to the role of advertising and the concept of masculinity. Moreover, the piece created in 2009 is unwittingly temporal, as it underscores the very aspirations tapped into by the Recovery Act’s popular Cash for Clunkers Program. Gagnon aptly captures what on the surface is a lowbrow desire for a slick fast car, which once achieved, literally fuels highbrow aspirations of auto and oil executives in an economy reliant on petrodollars. This seminal work underscores the consumerism at the center of the American Dream.

During a fiscal crisis, in which the unbridled accumulation of wealth and its symbols command a level of respect and sacredness, unparalleled since the time of the robber barons, Gagnon’s whimsical twist on national icons, inevitably raises disconcerting questions regarding the true cost of sustaining the prevailing orthodoxies. In $100 US Flag, a serigraph print of an American Flag embedded upon a series of hundred dollar bills, the immediacy of the core symbol is peeled away to reveal the underlying components behind its power. Whereas, Money Whip depicts an apparatus created by intertwined dollar bills, revealing the true instrument with which American business culture imposes its fiat.

Appropriation of official graphics are present throughout Gagnon’s work but nowhere is it more charged then in a series dedicated to the four seasons, where mesmerizing multi-colored camouflage variations are printed above US currency, perhaps masking the after-image of rampant capitalism or highlighting the stains upon its gains. Gagnon’s unsettling quest to define the American ethos suggests that a single homogenous identity is impossible when differences are mediated by privilege.

Consistent with a postmodernist idiom, Gagnon appropriates allegorical images and incorporates fragments of industrial material in cross-disciplinary works that break the boundaries between art and life, as well as, elite and mass culture. He presents a view of Americanism through a paradoxical prism, which effectively challenges the ideals of progress and the virtues of modernism. Through Gagnon’s creations, popular culture becomes the ground upon which diverse spectators enter into a didactic debate over identity, effectively constructing and deconstructing their concept of the national character.” (1)

ARCH GALLERY is an alternative exhibition space, which reflects Miami’s dynamic place in the arts, as both a magnet for emerging artists and a gateway for established Latin American masters. Arch builds upon the foundations set during the twenty years of exhibitions presented in its exquisite loft in NOHO, NYC, when the gallery directed by Daniela Montana, served as a maverick in the Latino Art Movement. In promoting a cross-cultural dialog, Arch acts as a catalyst for inclusiveness and diversity. Arch Gallery artists include: Emma Alvarez Pineiro, Raul Farco, Steven Gagnon, Elizabeth Grajales, Laura Marquez, Juan Mele, Manuel Pardo and Daniela Viotti.

(1) Montana, Daniela, Americanos, Ms, Arch Gallery Press, Miami, 2009.