JUST LIKE A BUGGY WHIP
There are two shows currently on at NAC and both are very pugnacious and in your face, although I think it highly unlikely that the two artists got together to plan this. They are both reacting to cultural pressures and refusing to fit into a prescribed mold. Neither wants to be popular in terms of what they perceive to be popular nowadays.
Kevin Richardson is a musician who refuses to agree that the sixties are old hat. So much of the music of the 20th century is now looked down on, in his opinion, in the way the maker of the buggy whip was put out of business by the horseless carriage. He has a picture of this, in fact, as well as pictures of other trades that have been rendered obsolete. Obsolescence and his refusal to consider the music of the 20th century obsolete are very much themes of this show. He refuses to make any concessions to present day popular taste, not only in his musical preferences but also in his painterly style, which is as pugnacious as his opinions. When he memorializes the official end of the hippies’ era with the tragedy at the Altamont Free Concert, it is with real bitterness. It was an ugly event and he records it, like so much else, in an ugly way.
Dave Gordon has a great many perceived heroes and enemies, whether cultural or political. Some of his heroies and heroines are also mine, such as Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Frida Kahlo, Margaret Atwood and Arthur Rimbaud. I am not sufficiently au fait with politics to recognise all of his villains, although I agree about Stephen Harper. He even mocks the Group of Seven and plays games with Cézanne’s renderings of Mont Saint-Victoire, which he reduces to a wood pile, even while he obviously admires Cézanne. He scoffs at the National Inquirer as wholeheartedly as he scoffs at more culturally prestigious phenomena such as conceptual art. No one is exempt. He even scoffs at himself with the James Thurber cartoon of his chosen motto, “Excelsior!” Sarcasm comes naturally to him, whatever the target.
Both artists are determined to be very much their own men. But Dave Gordon has already spoken up for himself at some length in an interview with Steve Remus published by NAC. They make me think of the Siamese in the old song:
“We are Siamese
If you please.
We are Siamese
If you don’t please.”