Misappropriation

Featuring recent works by Thomas Buildmore & Scott Chasse
 

mis•ap•pro•pri•ate: (verb) dishonestly or unfairly take for one's own use


The contemporary art world is quite familiar with the concept of appropriation. Wikipedia explains that "In the visual arts, to appropriate means to properly adopt, borrow, recycle or sample aspects (or the entire form) of man-made visual culture...Inherent in our understanding of appropriation is the concept that the new work recontextualises whatever it borrows to create the new work. In most cases the original 'thing' remains accessible as the original, without change." But the debate over legitimacy of image recycling continues to drag on indefinitely. Despite this age-old controversy, careers of rockstar artists like Warhol and Fairey have not only withstood infringement-related obstacles, they have flourished regardless. With the "borrowing" of imagery so prevalent amongst certain artists today, is the term "misappropriation" a more appropriate monicker?

Artists Thomas Buildmore and Scott Chasse are both head-deep in the issue. Like many before them, the two have accomplished somewhat formidable art careers by creating work that involves recycled imagery from pop culture. Buildmore's unapologetic placement of Angry Birds, Mickey Mouses, and Marilyn Monroes bombards the viewer with household names in a very non-household context. His signature Alfred E. Newman might be found floating on a background of paisley or exploding with a visual mash-up of colorful rays, stars, and characters. This trademark of sorts has landed Buildmore in The Boston Phoenix and The Boston Globe, as well as a slew of Flickr pools. Aside from the constant flow of new work from his Philly-based studio, Thomas is also known for creating the ever popular "Paint it Now" exhibit series which debuted at South Boston's Distillery Gallery back in '08, landed in Brooklyn last Summer, and is slated for a Philadelphia edition in March of this year.


Scott Chasse's overtly persistent reuse of Burt Reynolds as the bold black-and-white centerpiece of his work has provoked more than one instance of the question being raised, "does he [Burt] know about this?" The answer is yes, and this seemingly obsessive fan-boy behavior has earned him a range of press from indie art blogs to The New York Post. Although Burt may play the leading role in Chasse's recent work, the artist has also turned out a few William Shatners, Henry Winklers (as Arthur Fonzerelli), and was commissioned for the giant Samuel L. Jackson (as Jules from Pulp Fiction, of course) that adorns the main wall of the mom-and-pop fast food joint, Tasty Burger, behind Fenway Park. A recent move to Brooklyn has given Scott's career a boost, but he still keeps a foot in the door of Boston as gallery director at The Distillery Gallery and as the head organizer of South Boston Open Studios. "Misappropriation" invites the viewer to consider whether or not such employment of pre-fab mainstream imagery is right, wrong, or somewhere in between... Buildmore and Chasse seem to think it is perfectly OK, or at least their respective bodies of work would have to lead one to believe so.

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