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Ryan Monahan, Joshua Goode & Jeremy Hatch
July 15th – August 5th 2023

Saturday, July 15th
Free & Open to the public

Black Book Gallery is pleased to present Blast From The Past, an exhibition featuring artists Joshua Goode, Jeremy Hatch, and Ryan Monahan that blends semi-traditional techniques with an irreverent humor rooted in nostalgia. What results is a collection of contemporary artifacts — iconic (and ironic) relics of pre-meme subcultures — that range from the comically absurd to the deeply sentimental. An opening reception will be held on July 15th from 7-10 pm; Blast From The Past will remain on view until August 5th.

Joshua Goode is a Texas-based artist whose community-based “faux” archaeological actions constitute a kind of social sculpture — while questioning the origin of History, writ large. His totems pay homage to pop culture’s idols, blurring the historical record with lowbrow meta-narratives and eroding the boundaries between fact, fiction and satire.

“These are the initial discoveries from an active excavation at an undisclosed location,” Goode states. “The location must remain a secret because of the potential history-altering magnitude of the discoveries being made. Although, these artifacts may provide insight into what legends may be proven real.”

Suburbian America’s patron saint, Marge Simpson, is thus re-imagined as the Venus de Milo, an ancient Greek sculpture thought to portray idealized feminine beauty and grace. Goode’s miniature version, replete with a deceptively rich patina that alludes to the passing of time, symbolizes a glitch in the matrix—convoluting eras, civilizations and social constructs.

Similarly, Canadian artist Jeremy Hatch’s work combines delicate ceramic sculptures reminiscent of European figurines from the 17th and 18th centuries with the 1980s cartoon action heroes that dominated his childhood. “When I was young, US and Canadian laws changed to allow television advertising directly to children,” Hatch explains. “This resulted in a wave of new cartoons specifically aimed at marketing toys to kids. These shows included G.I Joe, He-Man, Transformers, ThunderCats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and more. Obviously, action figures are more than just toys or collectibles — they are statements on race, gender, class, body positivity and more.”

Just as Goode uses seeming traditional materials and pop culture imagery to critique the tyranny of history, Hatch remixes the hyper-masculinity of the superhero archetype in porcelain, an ancient medium that’s both fragile and “precious.” In doing so, Hatch achieves a level of cognitive dissonance that alters the viewer’s perception and interpretation of the subject, while tapping into the nostalgia embedded in each action figure.

Ryan Monahan, who is based in Illinois, also achieves peak nostalgia in his works, which range from hyper-detailed miniature replicas of poetic and symbolic spaces to oversized statement pieces that border on the absurd. There’s a palpable mythology tied up in these objects, from a dive-bar toilet stall full of punk graffiti to a larger-than-life matchbook (itself a relic of a bygone era) from the storied Mexican restaurant Casa Bonita, made infamous thanks to the satirical cartoon show South Park.

For his works in Blast From The Past, Monahan tapped into the zeitgeist’s apocalyptic undercurrent, focusing on fallen “empires” of the recent past. Toys R Us, the pre-millennial American child’s mecca that recently went bankrupt, is reconstructed in its derelict, post-Chapter 11 glory, a cautionary tale of late-stage capitalism. By recreating its rainbow adorned entrance, including broken windows (a la Giuliani), in a repurposed Lincoln Log toy box, Monahan creates a closed circle meta-narrative that speaks to the hollowing out of the American Dream and its legacy of unfulfilled promises.

Blast From The Past juxtaposes these artists and their interpretations of history and pop culture with a heavy dose of humor — offering an antidote to our collective existential angst. Through their use of materials, scale, and both ancient and contemporary symbolism, Goode, Hatch and Monahan tap into the cult of idol worship, the genesis of “Art” as we know it today, but remixed with Gen-X references and populist nostalgia to create a new lexicon of 21st century iconography.

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