Travis Somerville

Travis Somerville  American Rhetoric


     
click above image to read the BURNAWAY article
Travis Somerville's Rhetorical Assertions
click above image to read the WELD article
An antidote to nostalgia
click above image to read the al.com article
Racism? Art? Or both?



The work of Travis Somerville functions as a craft of anti-nostalgia and critical memory. In particular, the American Rhetoric show at the beta pictoris gallery showcases a selection of Somerville’s new work that continues his sharp and creative insistence on how images and material objects are never merely inanimate relics of a past far removed from our presents or our futures. Somerville compels us to reconsider and repudiate the standard measure of America’s history of white supremacy and racism as a progressive narrative that has seemingly ended on an utopian note of post-race. The work in American Rhetoric demonstrates a scripting of American history that forgoes this progressive wish fulfillment, a rhetoric of non-culpable hope. Instead, Somerville’s work intermingles visual and verbal references to the semiotics of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Age of Obama. As Somerville himself points out that his work complicates the sense of a collective memory about how race has shaped the political, historical, cultural, and social contours of America: “As I attempt to navigate the terrain between autobiography, history, and art, all sorts of collisions take place. It is these interesting moments and the inconsistencies that inform them that I try to capture in my work.” Through the restaging of old advertisements and newspapers, vintage money bags and cotton sacks, and the poignant juxtaposition of his drawing and painting against found photos, Somerville brilliantly entices the viewer to marvel over the aesthetic power of American culture’s everyday brutality and myopia. What more could one want from art?




click on image hereunder to read the great interview
Artist's Statement: Travis Somerville on How Art Can Tackle Racism
with the artist by SF Weekly's Jonathan Curiel






The tumultuous history of race relations in the South has been, in large part, buried and left to fester in the years since the Civil War. While culture is intangible and abstract, its artifacts are available as evidence of its existence. Born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised throughout the South, Travis Somerville unapologetically picks at these old wounds by exposing the popular objects and iconography of Southern culture. Somerville’s use of imagery is complex and shaped significantly by his personal relationship to it. His critical eye works in the shadow of his own nostalgia and consequently attempts to reconcile the idealism of his religious upbringing with the racial and political turmoil of his past.

Somerville’s irreverent installations, paintings and embellished photographs incorporate suggestive symbols of the South’s troubled history such as Ku Klux Klan hoods and Confederate flags as well as doo-rags, whiskey bottles and images of popular advertising from the more recent past, explore the complexities of racism and serve as a platform for discussion about US oppression and colonial attitudes abroad. His graphite-on-paper portraits take their subjects from vintage photographs and offer a more reflective side of his historical excavation. The suggestive content, although sensitive, attempts to unearth the complexities and contradictions in post-antebellum society rather than condemn it. Somerville has recently expanded on these ideas by exploring how the contemporary concerns of the South - most salient in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - stand as a metaphor for exported racism and colonialism.

Somerville’s work has been included in numerous museum exhibitions including at the University of Georgia, de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University,  Florida A&M University, Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many others. Somerville’s show Places I’ve Never Been was on exhibit at San Francisco Arts Commission in 2012, and recently was included in Newtopia: The State of Human Rights, an international exhibition of 70 contemporary artists dedicated to Human Rights; the exhibition was held at various prominent cultural institutions in Mechelen, Belgium and was curated by Katerina Gregos.
Somerville's solo exhibition Rebirth of a Nation: Travis Someville's 1963 at the Crocker Art Museum, curated by Diana L. Daniels, featured the mixed-media installation 1963, a three-dimensional construction which measures 7' high and 12' wide. 1963 is the study of a volatile and pivotal year in American history through sculpture, video, painting, and collage.

Travis Somerville has garnered critical attention in numerous publications including The Washington Post, Art in America, FlashArt and The Los Angeles Times.
His work is included in numerous Museum collections, including SF MoMA, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego CA, the 21c Museum in Louisville, KY, the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, CA, the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA, and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.






















The Big Show
2014
oil on canvas
dims variable (as installed 60 by 90 in.)






The Big Show (detail)








The Love That Forgives
2014
graphite and conté crayon on Children Chairs
dims variable (as installed ca. 40 by 36 by 20 in. high)









Producers Row
2014
oil on canvas
 
28 by 22 in.










Little Boy Blue
2014
oil and graphite on vintage cotton picking sack, metal gasoline can,
US flag fragment, cotton glove
ca. 60 by 26 by 9 in.




















Independence Day
2014
oil on vintage cotton picking sack, metal gasoline can
96 by 21 by 7 in.


private collection New York, NY









Narrative Structure 1
Narrative Structure 2


private collection Birmingham, AL










Narrative Structure 3
2013
graphite on vintage cotton picking sack
96 by 21 in.





Narrative Structure 3  (detail)









Jamestown
2013
cotton bale, chain, metal anchor
dims variable











Pickin Season
2014
oil, pencil, and acrylic on vintage cotton picking sack, white cotton glove
ca. 80 by 26 in.


private collection New York, NY










Building Balanced Children
2013
acrylic on vintage ephemera
ca. 10.5 by 11 in.











Well Division
2009
acrylic on vintage porcelain drinking fountains and panels, auto paint on metal drinking fountain,
copper pipes and running water
ca. 73.5 by 318 by 14 in.







Well Division   (detail)






Well Division   (detail)









American Dream III

2014
graphite, US flag fragment, and yarn on vintage cotton picking sack

ca. 83 by 26 in.

private collection Miami, FL









White Crimes
2013
graphite and vintage photo on paper
ca. 30 by 22.5 in.





White Crimes   (detail)










Ballad for George Stinney
2013
graphite, Children's Chairs, metal pulley, rope
dims variable









Ballad for George Stinney   (detail)








Harper’s Weekly series
2013 – 2014
collage and acrylic on vintage ephemera

ca. 15.5 by 11.5 in. / each





Most hated man in ATL





Family Values





Toppsy's Dream





Unchained Melody





Birthright




 
Lessons in Reality





The Plot







Born Into It
2012
  graphite on vintage money bags
72 by 64 in.


The portraits on Born Into It  are sourced through the Library of Congress from a series of portraits taken during the WPA period to document people who had been born during/into slavery.
Their portraits on vintage money bags, bearing inscriptions such as “return to...”, “Trustmark” or “BancorpSouth”, are powerful hints to slave narrative and slave history,
and the use of money bags refers to these humans as a commodity.








C.M.
(Carson McCullers)

2014
oil, gesso, acrylic on collage on canvas
48 by 36 in.







American Songbook
2009
acrylic on album cover
ca. 10.25 by 10.25 in.







Yellow Tip
2014
oil on canvas
 
24 by 20 in.









The Raft of Methuselah
2013
o
il and pencil on found furniture w/ wood, flag and plaster bust
dims variable (as installed ca. 6 by 3 by 8 ft H)








The Raft of Methuselah   (detail)









A Soldier's Story
2013
acrylic and collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 16.75 by 11.5 in.






Artist's Studio
2013
acrylic and collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 16.75 by 11.5 in.






Colonial Siesta
2013
acrylic and collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.






False Hope
2013
US flag fragment, yarn, pencil, conté crayon, and collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 18.5 by 13.75 in.






High School
2013
collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.






Papal Influence
2013
acrylic and collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.






Ceci n'est pas une pipe
2013
collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.


private collection Birmingham, AL






The Spectator
2013
collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.






Surge
2013
collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 16.75 by 11.5 in.






The Loneliness of support
2013
collage on vintage ephemera
ca. 11.5 by 16.75 in.
private collection Birmingham, AL









Sing Out America
2009
oil and collage on canvas, plaster casts
ca. 91 by 84 by 16 ½ inches









Lincoln's Log
2013
oil on showel w/ log
ca. 6 ft by 18 in.








Lincoln's Log   (detail)







now in the permanent collection of SFMoMA:
l to r: Choir Robe 1, Choir Robe 2, Ain’t No Uncle Tom, all 2013







visit Travis Somerville's website :