September 9 - October 30
Opening reception: Thursday, September 9th, 6-8pm
Abattoir presents a two person show of life-long friends Billy Copley and Allen Ruppersberg, artists who first met in art school at the Chouinard Institute of Art (now Cal Arts) in Los Angeles in 1962. Copley is based in New York; Ruppersberg, from Brecksville, OH, divides his time between Los Angeles and New York. Chouinard was, according to Copley, a “funky little school’ specializing in fine and commercial art with an emphasis on design and animation. Mrs. Chouinard had started the school, but Walt Disney took over during the early 1950s. Later, under the aegis of John Baldessari, Cal Arts became known for producing rigorous conceptual art.
Allen Ruppersberg recently exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art during the first FRONT triennial in 2018. This will be the Cleveland area native’s first gallery show in the region. The two artists’ formative years coincided with the Pop Art movement on both East and West Coasts, in which text, cartoon imagery, and commercial graphic styles influenced large scale paintings and sculptures. These elements, influenced by LA’s car and billboard culture, serve as the shared basis from which each artist developed his singular style and groundbreaking experimental attitudes. The work on view was all created within the last few years.
Ruppersberg found inspiration in American vernacular ephemera apart from Pop art culture, creating happenings and material works that identify him with conceptual art. Studying illustration encouraged his analysis of printed advertising, both high and low, which became a fruitful path for the future. Frequently, he explores the confluence of text and image in a myriad of forms—books, posters, prints, collages, and installation--combining the coolness of reproductive techniques with a passion for memorabilia from his youth. The works on view combine photography, collage, “ransom note” block lettering and drawing that read superficially as love letters to American entertainment culture—the LA movie business, the record business and Art. Supporting the work are structures, both visible and underlying, which resonate beyond these themes, comprising analysis, questioning, and often resulting in the collision of the deliberate and the accidental in art.
Ruppersberg has fashioned his studio practice itself apart from the classic painter’s practice. He has created archives of books, images, posters, magazines, photographs and films in large warehouse spaces that are the toolbox for projects. Somewhere between a rare book shop, a film archive, a thrift store, and a curated coffee table, these spaces give new meaning to the archive as art. The riches it gives up are never ending.
Billy Copley’s “Ledger series” drawings are experiments on found ledger paper, taken from a 1940s ledger book. He finds the act of drawing over preexisting marks liberating- - to see the underlying notations, columns of faded numbers and wonder about the people who recorded them. Recurring motifs are borrowed from many sources; cartoons, graphic art, LA car culture, Mexican souvenirs. Some reference American folk art, stencils from the paint store used to create patterns, a contemporary version of decorative painting techniques. Inspired by primitive wood block printing in India or Bali, Copley made and repeatedly used rubber stamps in his early work on paper. Other elements are scavenged from commercial graphics; his rose was taken from a corporate logo, altered and repurposed. Copley uses Japanese rice and mulberry papers for the collaged elements favored in his larger works. These are painted or printed with bright patterns; plaids, grids, checker boards and stripes done with an old-fashioned ruling pen and colored inks.
In 1948 Copley’s father, the artist and gallerist William Copley and his uncle made a trip to Mexico and brought back resonant objects and artifacts - stuff that formed the background of his childhood and stayed with him - he is still drawing on those deeply rooted images; Day of the Dead creatures, skulls, striped patterns. As a teen growing up in Los Angeles, Copley began drawing monsters in the style of “Big Daddy” Ed Roth - a California graphic artist whose imaginative “Kustom” hot rods, T shirts and cartoons influenced LA artists of the 1960s-- Rick Griffin, R. Crumb, Ron Cooper, Larry Bell, and John McCracken. Occasionally, Copley includes his signature on a drawing, a little oval medallion, as homage to his friend and fellow artist Peter Saul. Another motif is Picasso style heads, superimposed on a shopping list, or surrounded by free floating dates that reference the Cubist period - a cartoonish nod to art history and his place in it.