“Common Tread: Traversing the American Landscape” is a group art exhibition about the great American road trip curated by Martha Lourdes Rocha and Martin Lorigan. Last summer the two curators road tripped to galleries from sea to shining sea, then spent four months installing this impressive show, now in its last week at the Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton.
With a family room full of road trip snapshots, a garage for a 1959 Metropolitan, and imagery depicting the loneliness of the great open highway, the exhibition delivers the emotional highs and lows of contemporary vehicular-obsessed life. It’s a large amount of work in one gallery space.
Contemporary paintings, photographs and installations are by Jo Babcock, Melissa Chandon, Jason Chakravarty, John Divola, Susan Grossman, James Gucwa, S.A. Hawkins, Olga Koumoundouros, Jason Kowalski, James Lorigan, Kevin Stewart-Magee, Robert Olsen, Rob Reynolds, Bill Sosin, Dustin Shuler, Devorah Sperber, Robert Townsend, and Andy Warhol.
The trip last summer was Martha Lourdes Rochas’s first time across the map; for Marty Lorigan, it was a re-acquaintance long overdue. They sought vitality with an optimistic and investigative spirit. Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, Oregon was a destination recommended by a friend and is a reoccurring theme in the exhibit: In the billboard display, souvenir collection and an oil and acrylic on canvas by James Gucwa (Courtesy Scott Richards Contemporary Art) that is one of the show’s most resonating and popular pieces among CSUF students. Marty recalls a road trip memory: Getting a total of four donuts at Voodoo, eating two, and letting the other two roll around in the back of the car for a few days until it was too late to consume the elusive cream-filled chocolate puff.
Most of the exhibition consists of works on loan from collections and galleries across the continent. Four were created for Common Tread: a mural painting by Kevin Stewart-Magee that creates an alleyway experience, Snapshots and Reflections, a watercolor by James Lorigan, two cast, blown and enameled glass globes with inert gas by Jason Chakravarty, and Shatter by S. A. Hawkins, a glass and cast bronze tire tread.
Being a chronic road tripper myself, having criss-crossed the country several times and being madly in love with the west, I know that pavement under the tires feels triumphant and full of possibility. I know, too, the reality of going miles without seeing a soul, the challenges of being a stranger in a strange land, billboards shouting down their messages in seven words or less. For me, this show calls up a few of the insecurities of being on the road–the signs, suitcases and vibrant landscapes with hardly any people, only evidence of them–but the exhibition is a complete triumph in the way it comes together. It’s the riddle of the road.
(Top photo: Jason Kowalski, Back Behind the Shop)“Common Tread: Traversing the American Landscape” Co-curated by Martha Lourdes Rocha & Martin Lorigan Begovich Gallery at Cal State Fullerton 800 North State College Blvd., Fullerton, CA 92831 (657) 278-2011 Sept. 8-Oct. 11, 2012 12-4pm Mon.-Thurs.,12-2pm Sat.