Mar 29 – May 5, 2012
The unlikely source of antique decorative liquor bottle decanters provides photographer, video artist Gary Emrich with rich material in which to blend Western kitsch and the serious subject of the West’s limited resources. In the artist’s “Firewater” series, this collection of found novelty vessels serves as the centerpiece within each image playing off the colorful backdrops of contemporary plastic water bottle labels. Brightly glazed ceramics in character form – the sheriff, the scout, the cowboy – were manufactured to represent the stereotypical spirit of the American West while containing actual “spirits” of a lesser grade. This curious, found-object collection recognizes a complex attitude about the West in a myriad of ways. Beyond their quirky appeal, the vessel forms are juxtaposed by Emrich’s visually-charged backgrounds utilizing plastic water bottle labels. The commercial reality and ubiquitous presence of bottled water seems to illustrate water as both a marketable specialty item and a precious, but not-so-treasured resource in American society today. Humor and a distinct point of view is also revealed in the artist’s appropriated footage of a clichéd distressed damsel – perhaps a metaphoric Mother Earth – dramatically suspended by helicopter over land and waterfall. This is ongoing terrain for Gary Emrich as he continues to take a critical look at American culture then and now via routes familiar, yet decidedly untraveled.