Picks for November ArtHop: Mac Mechem at Fig Tree, Moulton and Moses at Spectrum, Gallery 25 at Scarab, and Larry Hill at Downtown Artist Gallery
Mac Mechem does not sit on the sidelines. His last ArtHop exhibition, in 2019, featuring his politically explosive satirical art, prompted some, um, interesting responses on social media. (Titled “Trumpocracy: A Visual Critique,” it included a depiction of the 45th president wearing a Speedo, red bow tie, star-spangled shoes and little else.) Now, for November’s ArtHop — the monthly open house of galleries and studios in the downtown and Tower District neighborhoods — he returns with another politically charged exhibition, “Band of Brothers.” Most venues are open 5-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 4.
The exhibition at Fig Tree Gallery features 38 new works with subjects ranging from politics and the environment to pop culture. To give you an idea of where Mechem is coming from, Donald Trump appears as the grim reaper in one work, scaring both adults and children. In the other piece a frightened Donald, clad in jammies and a night cap is confronted by the ghost of Obama’s past.
I caught up with Mechem to learn a little more about his newest foray into the time-honored tradition of satirical political art in this country. I also include three other ArtHop picks as well: a group of Gallery 25 artists showing at Scarab Creative Gallery; painter Larry Hill at the Downtown Artist Gallery; and photographers Joshua Moulton and John Moses at Spectrum Art Gallery. For an updated list of artists and venues, go to the Fresno Arts Council’s website.
Here’s my Mechem conversation:
Q: You discovered a new mode of expression during the past year. Explain it to us.
A: I see an idea evolving and morphing into a completed vision in my mind’s eye. I google the appropriate images and print them out on my trusty $79 printer. I then cut them out with an X-acto knife and adhere them to the appropriate background with Elmers glue. We all did this when we were kids. How low tech can you get? I have always considered myself to be a low tech wizard and a high tech imbecile. Actually, the computer world scares me.
Next I take the collage to Office Max where it is enlarged to any size up to 36″ on good quality paper and mounted on foam core. Then I take it home and, using Prisma color pencils, clean up fuzzy edges, enhance light and dark, and power up color intensity. I can create a masterpiece in three days, whereas, completing an oil painting might take up to 4 months. I call it instant gratification. Don’t get me wrong, I still paint every day. Am I giving you too much information? Sorry, I can’t help myself.
Q: Thinking back to your last show, did anyone express disapproval?
A: The reaction to my last show was either approval or stone cold silence. I think you received all the negative feedback on your blog. When I was teaching at McLane High School, I did a series of cartoons lampooning the downtown administration, the school board,, and the FTA of which I was a member. My principal got phone calls from angry board members, I received letters from irate administrators, and my wife got threatening phone calls from, whoever.
Q: Satirical political art is a time-honored tradition in this country. What purpose do you think it serves?
A: When I was in the 6th grade I had a serious crush on the girl sitting at the desk in front of me. I did everything in my limited repertoire to get her attention, but to no avail. One day I drew a caricature of our teacher and handed it forward to her. The change in her demeanor was instantaneous and shocking. She immediately became my first girlfriend. I was suddenly aware of Art’s power to change minds when all other attempts fail.
Q: Are you able to work through any of your political frustrations making this art? Or does focusing on the issues just rile you up?
A: Political frustration in my case is the impetus and the cause that fuels my creative engine, enabling me to see the problem clearly and share with others, thus soothing my savage beast.
Q: Did you make any works for this show that you decided not to exhibit because you had second thoughts?
A: Yes, I have decided not to show two portraits. The first is a portrait of Mike Pence exuding all his smirking glory, with a huge fly on his head. The second shows Rudy Giuliani grinning from ear to ear with a pile of ….. Well, need I say more. Nix potty humor! I have decided to send each man his portrait as a Christmas gift.
Q: What’s your favorite piece in the show?
A: I have two favorites:
No. 1: A pudgy Uncle Sam sits on a beautiful grassy hill overlooking Wash. DC. His earphones are plugged into music from John Phillip Souza and a Big Mac rests by his side, a large cola included. Total bliss. Unbenounced to our national icon, a huge Chinese steamroller has emerged chugging over the hill directly behind him with the illustrious President Xi at the controls. I think dear Sam is going to be squashed like a bug.
No. 2: This time a handsome, dashing Uncle Sam is locked in a sensual embrace with the crowned prince of Saudi Arabia as they tango across a Yemen landscape filled with death and destruction.
The exhibition runs through Nov. 28.
Larry Hill at Downtown Artist Gallery
Abstract expressionist painter Larry Hill has been shown at the Martin Janis Gallery in Los Angeles and the famed Sidney Janis gallery in New York, along with Franz Kline, Willem DeKooning and Jackson Pollock. Hill was one of 25 California artists from California who participated in the Linz International Visual Art Exchange.
His new exhibition is at the recently opened Downtown Artist Gallery at the Bus Barn (701 L St.), just down from the Robert Ogata Gallery in the old Bus Barn building.
Speaking of Ogata, I got to do a studio visit with Joyce Aiken for our Fresno State Osher class. Here’s the video I made:
Gallery 25 artists at Scarab Creative Gallery
Joan Sharma, Michele Sani, Cynthia Carter Cameron, Robin Dolarian and Carol Tikijian are featured artists at Scarab Creative Gallery, 729 E. Divisadero St.
Sharma recently won an honorable mention award in the International Photography Awards for “Controlled Burn — Yosemite.”
John Moses, Joshua Moulton at Spectrum Art Gallery
He explores the relation of metonymic figures of speech to visual language, creating both abstract, minimalist images as well as those based on more recognizable parts of some whole. For either emphasis, viewers are invited to look at the world more closely, to see it differently. Aligned with that difference, each image has been printed directly on metal.
And Joshua Moulton’s “Sojourn” features a recent trip to Iceland. From his artist statement:
Hiking through the Icelandic mountains on a dreary, late afternoon and coming over the rise of the hilltop, I finally get my first glimpse at the Geldingadalir volcano and my heart skips a beat. As I draw nearer to the eruption I feel heat from the lava warming my face just like I’m sitting in front of a campfire even though the source is thousands of feet away. The sound of stones grinding upon each other as the hardened uppermost layer of molten rock flows past in a river of fire fills my skull. And then comes the eruption-a magnificent, glorious and violent explosion of lava directly from the heart of the volcano high into the sky as more pours down the side. This could be Mordor.
Both exhibitions run through Nov. 28.
Teresa Flores at Broadway Studio
This just in: My friend and former Fresno Famoso colleague Teresa Flores is back in town from Los Angeles!
She writes on Facebook:
I’m busting that pandemic seal and showing all these works together for the first time ever. Came all the way to Fresno to do it— it’s a good thinking spot and I feel grounded at Broadway but also, who gets wall space to casually show work like this in LA? 🤷🏽♀️🤷🏽♀️
Come thru! I’ll be in the big studio in the back, the one with the roll up door. Gonna have some posters for sale along with painted bottles from the Adornamented collection, some small drawings and large originals. I even brought salt water taffy from Casa de Fruta because I know how you like that stuff, Fresno.
I miss Fresno Famoso!