Ryan Trecartin's video A Family Finds Entertainment is now a decade old. With the serious intent of Bill Viola and Nam June Paik fused with PCP into the Tom Rubnitz and John Waters school of filmmaking, Trecartin heralded the rise of the DIY, YouTube auteur that is so common these days.
Born in 1981, he's been a product -- through action or inaction -- of the video game generation but with enough of a cognizant experience of that generation's transitional period to emerge without being jaded while fully embracing the absurd.
Campy and provocative, Trecantin has been proclaimed by The New Yorker as "the most consequential artist to emerge since the 1980s." His installations and videos are theatrical, often pushy échanges violents, that the upcoming Helen Venero Artist Lecture Series describes as "seen as a watershed for their exploration of the profound shifts in culture and social interaction that are defining our current moment." His worlds are populated with intricate layers of absurdist narratives.
The Texas-born, Los Angeles-based artist and his frequent collaborator Lizzy Fitch have been working together since 2000 in cities like Philadelphia and Miami, absorbing the flavors of each place's humanity and returning the observation in full with exaggerated, even outrageous interpretations of what they've witnessed.
A Family Finds Entertainment
A YouTube user, Franco Felix Blanco astutely described Trecartin's work as "John Waters vomits Wonder Showzen in Skype." There is a spiritual connection there for sure and maybe it is no coincidence that they are both in South Florida on the same week, but the connection might be more in line with their shared sense of theatricality and the bemused observations on the human condition and the art of creation with limited budgets. Waters took his cues from the bastardized "American Dream" of the '50s and the versatility of his eternal muse, Divine.
Trecartin has at his disposal the vast highways of the Internet and the history of many generations that have since tried complying to some form of what that "American Dream" could've been. "A Family Finds Entertainment's" inclusion in the 2006 Whitney Biennial is indicative of the art world's acceptance of envelope pushing, radical artists -- it's a no brainer that Trecartin wouldn't be a name today if it hadn't been for his ability to access a platform like YouTube; or maybe he would, but it'd certainly taken much longer to receive the attention that he currently has.
As part of Florida International University's Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum's Helen Venero Artist Lecture Series, Trecartin will discuss cultural shifts and the dizzying social interactions that define contemporary life. He's currently sitting pretty, with numerous projects on display around the world like the installation "Ledge" in California, a plush creation that has reversed the idea of comfort and viewing art in a gallery setting -- where it is usually uncomfortable to watch interesting video art, Trecartin and Fitch purposely present a dull work in an environment you wouldn't want to rise from. Imagine a huge and warm bean bag chair after an evening of partying.
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FIU's assistant professor of contemporary art Alpesh Kantilal Patel will discuss this range of projects with the artist, new and recent works, as well as the upcoming New Museum Triennial which Trecartin is co-curating with former Rhizome executive director Lauren Cornell.
Helen Venero Artist Lecture Series presents: Ryan Trecartin at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 19, at the Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Florida International University, 10975 SW 17th St., Miami. Lecture will be held at the Green Library GL100, reception to follow at Frost Art Museum. Call 305-348-2890 or visit thefrost.fiu.edu.