Jarrod Beck & Ali Fitzgerald
top: installation view
Catalog essay by Andy Campbell:In 2003 Republicans in the Texas Legislature redrew the district boundaries of our state. After a couple of clever walkouts by Democrats, Travis County and the neighboring districts were broken up into seven pieces, the most contentious of these being a congressional district that winds its way from Central Texas down to the Rio Grande Valley. This was done, presumably, to put more Republicans in Congress and to deny equal representation for what is one of the largest liberal populations in Texas. Division of space is power.
This is not news to Texans. But why is this in an art catalogue?
We love to parse out space. The Texas redistricting is a particularly resonant example. We are divided into states, regions and districts. There are zoning laws for commercial, residential, and industrial sites. We have created two hour and thirty minute parking meters. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. We pay taxes based upon the square-footage and desirability of our homes. We have seen the creation and implementation of “free speech zones.”
This land is your land, this land is my land.
And yet, dear reader, if this makes you feel powerless, if the prospects look grim, remember that there are still some spaces of resistance. Spaces where, if even for a brief period of time, function overpowers architectural intent. Bleachers provide a good example. While bleachers accomplish the goal of holding and leveling a viewing public, they also provide a space of resistance. Underneath the bleachers people can fight and make out, deal and eat, shit and think. They do anything but watch the action on the field. I take bleachers as an example because the space of resistance is built-in. Many queer scholars have commented that the spaces of bath-houses or of closets function in similar ways; as spaces, they comply and resist social codes of behavior. I also mention bleachers because a certain pair of artists are thinking of constructing and playing with bleachers in their installation for Making It Together.
Looking and loving have never been so close. And so, after a lengthy introduction, and with an exuberant heart I present to you the work of Ali Fitzgerald and Jarrod Beck.
I will confess that their collaboration was born of curatorial pandering. Although they have worked together before, I strongly suggested that they work together for this show. At that point it was not clear whether or not there would be enough artists in Making It Together (too much empty space?). Luckily, both agreed. As a curator, I was desperate. So, why these two? What can these two accomplish together that they could not do individually?
In some respects you could not ask for two artists who are more dissimilar. Fitzgerald is a master of weaving and then jolting a narrative. Her paintings are drippy representational things. She has done research on Wild West mythology, women’s tennis, donkey shows, and, most recently, Dick Tracey. Fitzgerald focuses on these seemingly complete organisms of cultural myth, takes them apart, and then reassembles them, often maintaining the illusion of a grand narrative. She utilizes camp and kitsch, my favorite “c” and “k” words, while always keeping her own subjectivity in focus. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Fitzgerald is able to create what is at once a pleasurable and critical experience.
Jarrod Beck, formally enrolled as an MFA student in printmaking, builds and bends the spaces he works in. Beck uses 2” x 4”s alongside florescent lights and string. Dyed black bandages and packing paper have been known to appear in his large-scale installations. Those nooks and crannies I spoke of before, the under the bleacher spaces, the closets and bath houses – he makes these spaces. But, what has always impressed me about Beck’s work is that these spaces have always existed, even within the gallery setting. He never really brings these spaces into the gallery but rather he pulls them out of it.
So how do Fitzgerald and Beck fit together? To be honest, I am not quite sure. Both are deft at destabilizing the foundations with which we as viewers are intimately familiar. It appears to be very simple; find a foundation, and work to subvert it. But I think this may be more complex than it seems. I am depending upon Beck and Fitzgerald to prove me wrong.
As writers we deal in foundations and space as well. We must create arcs, large portals under which arguments can exist but also be contained. We are supposed to make our connections clear, like city builders are meant to finish their bridges – how can one get from here to there without it? Everyone depends upon it. I have yet to see Fitzgerald and Beck’s installation, they plan to create it organically in situ. It is difficult for me to set up the specific artwork appearing in Making It Together for you, the reader. Instead, I want to speak to the parameters of their art production. For me, their collaboration demands this kind of writing.
So, let me begin to build a bridge. I refuse to finish it because this is your job. The spaces we inhabit, cultural and architectural, are political spaces. They are places and homes for communities. They are also divided by borders, most of which are sharply defined, and oftentimes these borders are policed (sometimes with six thousand more men and women than what may be necessary). We live with the aggression of space, the aggregated wealth and parity of space. There is nothing nicer than a clean room, right? A room cleared of all clothing items, cleared of all books and papers, cleared of all bodies and empty lubricant bottles. Beck and Fitzgerald give us these spaces in all their complexity and grandeur. They make us ask not only “why?” but also “how?” They are interesting questions, but unfortunately there is not enough space here for an answer.
I have reached my word limit, my boundary – one thousand words.