Venue Information

Ian Everard

Gaye Chan
Kaili Chun
Sally Clark
Binh Danh
Ian Everard
James Fee
Alejandro González Iñárritu
Robin Kandel
John Morita
Katsushige Nakahashi
Masami Teraoka
Lynne Yamamoto

The process of selecting an image, typically an archival photograph found in an antique shop or a pocket book with a curious or eye-catching cover, is almost as important to Ian Everard’s work as is the final product.  Everard is not a collector in the conventional sense, nor is he an archivist.  Rather, as with lightning to a lightning rod, Everard coaxes memory from cultural artifacts.  Searching through stacks of old photographs, or coming across a book, Everard waits for something to strike him: an expression, a pose, an imperfection, some minutia.  Most of Everard’s existing body of work employs the medium of watercolor to meticulously recreate a moment of time captured in a photographic still or the peculiarity of an artifact of popular culture—typically a pocket book.  Everard’s process reveals details and unearths the signatures of memory buried within the object itself.

Everard unveils the “truth” behind his subject.  In the most fundamental sense, what is revealed is composition and form. The very process of painting—of recreating the image—reveals earlier traditions in visual culture, e.g., history painting in epic scale, such as the work of David, or fixtures of Western visual culture such as Christ being taken down from the cross, martyrs, and heroes.  There are further surplus meanings that again, through the process of a handcrafted reproduction, reveal themselves.

In contrast to the photographic medium, which rapidly crystallizes a particular time, or the mechanized mass reproduction of popular culture (e.g., pocket books), painting is laborious, a drawn out process.  Everard meditates on the image: a crowd of people becomes a collection of individual persons; an epic depiction of the sinking of the USS Arizona is wrestled free from its stasis as “icon.”  Under Everard’s scrutiny the photograph, or the images found on the covers of popular literature, are transformed.  The cold stoicism, the pure reportage that the photographic medium is typically thought to deliver, opens up.  While these images might appear as some token of the past we soon discover that it is not that the images haunt us, but that it is we who haunt them.  We project our anxieties, ambitions, or even our identities on to these images of the past.  Everard’s replication of an image in watercolor shatters the icy exterior of photographs and deconstructs the crass bravado of pocket book covers.

The pocket books are strange artifacts of culture where war is transformed into a cheap mass-market consumer product.  From this perspective, the capitalization of warfare is revealed for what it really is: a morbid fascination with violence, death, and the spectacle of human engineering employed to wreak destruction.  A cottage-industry has developed out of the history of the Second World War—the newsreel footage, the paraphernalia—and is largely driven by the market demands of the Baby Boomer generation whose parents, by mere virtue of living through that time, were in some way involved in this history.  Cable television might be the contemporary analogue to these pulp history pocket books.  The History Channel, for example, runs ad nauseam documentaries about war, favoring Manichaean subjects that clearly define the righteous actions of some (e.g., American servicemen) versus the embodiment of evil (e.g., Hitler).  Despite whatever the truth might have been, disavowing the adage “war is hell,” these pulp history books capitalize on the myth of “heroic battle” and the righteousness of the American cause.  In Everard’s reproduction of these cheap renditions of history, irrespective of the content of the books, that make a commodity of war, Everard appears to question the function of pulp history.  What purpose do these products serve, and to what effect?  What implications might be given to our current “preemptive war?”

In addition, Everard emphasizes the degree to which cinematic representations of war have permeated visual culture.  In this series Everard deals specifically with the Pacific war. The covers of these pulp history pocket books are clearly drawn from newsreel footage or from films such as the documentary December 7th directed by John Ford (1943), the war bond film Avenge December 7 (1942), and, although much later, films like Tora! Tora! Tora! (Richard Fleischer, Kinji Fukasaku, and Toshio Masuda, 1970).

These manufactured images, featured on the covers of pocket books, draw from the economy of popular visual culture and are used to construct a very specific version of history emphasizing the triumph of the American spirit.  Lingering somewhere in the body of these mass produced images emblazoned across the covers of these cheap pocket books is this sense of American righteous “triumphalism,” possibly having its antecedents in Manifest Destiny, where the belief in the “superiority” of American ideals supposedly predestined not only the defeat our of adversaries, but, as with Germany and Japan, would also set them on the “righteous” path towards the creation of free democratic societies.  Also implicit in the images from Pearl Harbor is that the Hawaiian landscape and the history that it embodies is taken for granted.  It is generally assumed that Hawai‘i in 1941 had already been assimilated into the fabric of American culture through the supposed “natural” progression of American influence and power.  Obviously, at the time, and especially early on in the conflict, American victory was not predestined; however, in retrospect these historic images have been assigned particular connotations reinforcing the supposed natural progression of the American sphere of influence.  Everard’s replication of these book covers demands the viewer’s attention.  Just as he does in the production of his painting, our eyes shift between the original and the copy, looking for differences, for omissions by the painter.  In our meditation on these images we also must stop and think about their function.  What wares are being mass-produced and sold here?  Are these pocket books nothing more than cheap products designed to simply satisfy the “history enthusiast,” or is there more to these images than first meets the eye?

For more information on this artist, please visit www.soa360.com/ianeverard/index.html.
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