This Friday, September 29th at 8 pm, Aetopoulos Athens is honored to present work by Peter Paquin and Ned Vena.
In Peter Paquin’s paintings, his central motif of a/the rat(s) serves as a continuation of a decades-long obsession with the rodent, tracking from Paquin’s adolescence into his present-day adult life. Rats bear tremendous capacity for metaphor and allegory. They thrive in the ecologies of waste produced by the human element sharing their environment. Their occupation of dark and forbidden zones of the urban landscape is a defining component to the understood sketchiness of such zones. Rats are the animal kingdom’s champion signifier of filth, sleeping in and eating from the muck metabolized and shat out the tail ends of the production lines of urban civilization. For Paquin, these strong associations present productive possibilities for artistic creation, the very word “rat” being a puerile anagram of the word “art”. Through exhaustive drawing, painting and extensive collecting of images of rats represented in art, photographs, comics, graphic design and other mediums, Paquin has examined the cultural consequences of the rat’s inherent signification. This practice has spanned from the public realm, where his rat(s) is (are) painted on city streets, presented as an avatar joining the day-to-day rat race of pedestrians on sidewalks, to the paintings presented here, where they are transposed onto a painting’s surface, with oil paint. Thus an equivalence develops; the gallery, like the city sidewalk, is inhabited by rats. It becomes yet another site of the grime fit for infestation by animals who typically gather in subway tunnels and dumpsters. Human encounters with rats are often met with recoil and disgust, but in the context of the gallery, the coded vision of art viewing allows the creature new dimensions of interpretation. In this, yet another equivalence is identified, where the human consumption of images mimics the rat’s consumption of waste. The existence of the rat is contingent on the mechanisms of capital rendering a filth it can otherwise not identify, nor eliminate. This behavior is echoed in human existence amidst neoliberal systems of free markets and oppressive governments; a scurrying to locate sustenance and remain as under the radar as possible in the wringing mess of total control.
Zoom out from the rat’s dominions of city waste piles, sewers and tunnels to the Manhattan’s skylines of Ned Vena’s paintings. The paintings are made with images from paintings made by street vendors, which are scanned, printed, painted upon and reprinted, etc… In the two paintings, we are presented with two versions of Manhattan, as indicated by the former World Trade Center buildings in one, and the Freedom Tower in the other. These landscapes are presented as images reflected in the eye of Spiderman’s mask. The pre-September 11th Twin Towers’ skyline represents nearly four decades of a city that was consumed by crime, one that Gerard Ford told to “drop dead”; a bankrupt New York, at the financial mercy of Wall Street and real estate fat cats. It was an era that culminated with the Giuliani mayoral regime, the so-called “Disneyfication” of Times Square, and the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers were destroyed. The other painting features the completed World Trade Center 1 building, formerly known as the “Freedom Tower” which stands at 1776 feet tall. WTC1 was completed in July of 2012, four months before Barack Obama was elected to his second term as president of the United States. It is the contemporary landmark skyscraper of New York, save for 432 Park Avenue on “Billionaires Row”, which is the second tallest building in the city. The glassy and geometric facade of WTC1 is representative of the rapid construction and development that has taken hold of New York City in the first decades of the 21st Century.
Exhibited together, the works of the two artists present depictions of urban life. Relying heavily on the appropriation and repurposing of images, Paquin and Vena work with their subjects to identify the areas within the paradigm of living in cities where the individual can function free of the restrictions and control that determine the laws, codes and behavioral conducts that define its claustrophobic nature. Through the use of metaphor and fantasy, the construction of identity in this context predicates itself on the interfacing of fiction and non-fiction, real spaces with speculating uses and metaphysical correlations that exist across the many beings inhabiting a single place.
FRIDAY: 3-8PM SATURDAY: 11-6PM