Friday, November 4, 2011

Relentless Art: The mean, huge brain of William Powhida

Wandering around Chelsea Galleries is a good way to be shunted into a green passive-agressive disgust/envy at all the earnest art-world salesmanship that circulates around mediocre work in the big city, which is my highbrow way of saying that I have my personal tastes and the things that fall outside of them annoy me. It is also a great way to learn about actually interesting stuff. Today that stuff was the work of William Powhida in the Postmasters Gallery, which not only blew my mind but left a residue of cynicism toward all the other art that followed it. Powhida's work centers around a style of pencilled, colorful art-world rants on a facsimile of notebook paper.

His snarky insider commentary and sarcastic anti-capitalism alone would probably be enough for me to fall in love, but beyond that it turns out the dude is SMART. Angrily smart, in fact, with a mathematical brain that has a penchant for mapping out social and political infographics with cutting personal attacks and diatribes. My favorite works in the show were giant parsings of the political landscape that appeared to contain years worth of interconnected, venomous insights about, well, everything. You could probably justifiably devote a news channel to extracting and presenting all of the information in this one piece:

The picture is huge, 5x10 feet. And though the gallery has some high-res versions of his pieces online, it's only in person that the barrage of information becomes apparent. And that one's logistically simple; it only separates political players by their place on the bi-partisan spectrum. My favorite piece in show is a 4-way nexus of the forces of pro-culture and sub-culture along a political spectrum, a "Continuum of Ideological Futility."

The artist appears to be hitting on all cylinders. The banner piece for the show deals with the challenge of art and protest articulating over-arching social problems. #OWS is a standout footnote, and he nails the collective messiness and circuitous nature of the challenges facing the radical social reform that we're attempting to get our heads around. He also may be the most prolific bridge-burner I've ever heard of, with pieces like a 'where are they now?' of Williamsburg's turn-of-the-century art startups. Mean as hell, but he's got the goods to back up the rhetoric.

1 comment:

Alexandra Parvaz said...

amazing and striking! visual language desperately needed to be shared in SLC.

excellent post

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