Exhibition Preview: Interruption – A Retrospective of Work from 2004 -2010 by Joe Sorren and Collaborative Sculpture by Jud Bergeron and Joe Sorren
California State University Fullerton/Grand Central Art Center, California, USA
6th November 2010 to 8th January 2011
Flagstaff Cultural Partners/Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
22nd January 2011 to 25th February 2011
By Guy Sangster Adams
Unveiling ten new paintings and bringing together ten works created throughout the last decade on loan from international collectors of Joe Sorren’s work, who include Courtney Cox/David Arquette, Patricia Arquette, and Nike Brand President, Mark Parker, Interruption is the first museum retrospective of the work of this highly influential conceptual artist. The exhibition also includes eight, new, bronze sculptures that Sorren has created in collaboration with Jud Bergeron. Interruption also marks the publication of the book, Joe Sorren – Paintings 2004 – 2010 (Gingko Press).
Born in a suitcase factory in Chicago, Illinois, USA, though as he is keen to establish, “not inside of a suitcase, mind you.” A surrealistically humorous retort that brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Lady Bracknell’s infamous exclamation ,”In a handbag?”, when she discovers that as a baby her prospective son-in-law was found in a handbag at London’s, Victoria Station. Her ladyship would probably be equally aghast at Sorren’s childhood hobbies growing up in Arizona, first in and around Phoenix, and then Flagstaff, where he is still based, which he lists as “running and jumping” and “spit[ting] in the wind.”
Early pop cultural inspiration for Sorren came via Dynamite, the children’s magazine that ran from 1974 to 1992 and featured a heady mix of magic tricks, punch out or assemble puzzles, games, postcards, and masks and the like on the back cover, plus fold out posters, sometimes in 3-D, alongside coverage of television shows from The Six Million Dollar Man to Beverly Hills 90210, film stars, and rock and pop stars. He still has, as he puts it, “a half-way decent collection of Dynamite Magazine posters that range from issue #3 (Robin Williams as Mork) to issue #7 (Jessica Lange as Mork’s dentist).” Before wryly adding, “actually that is not true, I don’t have the Jessica Lange poster anymore, not since the 2003 incident at Pay-n’-Take in Flagstaff, Arizona.”
Sorren began painting in 1991, graduated with a BFA from Northern Arizona University in 1993, and held his first solo exhibition in 1995. Since when, along with contemporaries such as Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and The Clayton Brothers, he has become a key figure in the new American art scene, playing a major role in the rise of the genres Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow, whilst also producing work that is its own genre, the genre of Sorren, and inspiring a new generation of artists into the bargain. Over the course of the last 15 years he has exhibited in galleries around the world, gaining international acclaim, garnering many awards, and a similarly international roster of collectors and fans. Whilst his work has also featured in an host of publications including Rolling Stone Magazine, Time Magazine, the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly, on television in NBC’s ER, and the film Penelope (2006) directed by Mark Palansky and starring Christina Ricci, James McAvoy, and Reece Witherspoon.
Warner Brothers, Fox and Atlantic Records have also all used Sorren’s work, and he created the cover art for the two Tweaker albums, The Attraction To All Things Uncertain (2001) and 2am Wake Up Call (2004). Tweaker is an alternative rock collaboration founded by the Grammy Award winning producer, musician, songwriter Chris Vrenna, who also played drums with Nine Inch Nails and is the current keyboard player with Marilyn Manson. Tweaker has featured contributions from many famous musicians including Johnny Marr, Will Oldham, Robert Smith, and David Sylvian.
The fashion designer Donna H. Baxter, founder of Elsie Katz Couture and collector of Sorren’s work, says of him, “Joe’s success has always been so much larger than his ambitions.” Certainly, as is borne out from the above paragraphs, Sorren’s rich sense of humour belies any taking himself too seriously. What is serious is his passion and commitment the creation of new work rather than to the trappings of celebrity.
A sense of humour along with “skilful chaotic moments of inertia” are key facets of the sculptures that he has created with Jud Bergeron for Interruption. Bergeron is a New York-based sculptor, who studied classical sculpture with Lacy DeGarenday at the prestigious Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut, USA from 1988 to 1991. After which for the next ten years he worked as a mould maker and master patina artist at foundries across the USA. All of which has lead to current renown for his “ability to take metals, wood and patinas to a sublimely abstract level.” He has exhibited extensively in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver and Santa Fe. In 2004 he was selected for The Hearts in San Francisco public art project, for which he fabricated a 6ft x 6ft abstract, steel heart that was installed in front of the War Memorial in San Francisco. He is currently finishing work that will be installed in downtown Sacramento, California, USA, as part of their art in public space programme.