Famous American Soups
April 7 - May 27, 2023
Why is when, and now is why, and we will ALWAYS want, AND all is “What the holy fuck!”
Never has this been an obstacle for lucid critical or crucial thought for whom the dumbbell tolls in the skies of material wantonness. Q: How did we even get here? The needs, creeds, and greed of all the wants are re-assembled in this body of work. Faux luxury facilitated by dead corporate machines like Sears, JC Penny, and Montgomery Wards with 1200-page catalogs is a good place to begin perhaps. Paper bricks printed on glossy non-archival paper layered to the sky for empire building. If aliens from outer space were to visit us right now (PLEASE help us now!), many of their questions could be answered in those catalogs.
Core samples have been gathered in these non-fine art things and born again from merely rummaging through the graveyards of consumable "goods" re-swapped for more $$ in the stores of thrift and performing fleas. By the process of cultural anthropology, many of these cheap consumer goods have been given a new life, again to adorn the walls and tables of mainstream America. The artist has found inspiration in the cheap stuff of yester-year, thusly re-arting the stuff that was mass-produced to give the façade of style and class. So hurry! We’re running out of stuff fast!
The white middle/upper/other classes examined have been recorded in both the good and bad books of history and consequently flushed out the birth canals of the unimaginative landfills (progress). Facsimiles with objective meanings defy our understanding in the rubbish now, yet provide proof-positive of who we were, who we are, and what we mostly still want to be. So uselessly useful in their time now become "utilitarian fine art" again for their utilitarian
purpose in the third place. Artistic alchemical license has freely given the artist a full-on-all-out-all-American stratagem with these junk store findings. America in its most peculiar vintage hour… American at its final artistic process…
So for now, we look to the past for where we went wrong, right, and/or left. Based on the hunting and gathering of antiquated pictorial evidence, allegorical signifiers, aggressive branding, and personal insider insights, observable clues are given in an absurdist, unflinching and often lowbrow way for your viewing entertainment. To laugh or to cry?… You decide…
Who is Leon Richmond?
Leon Richmond was born in Defiance, Ohio. His father moved their large Catholic family from Lafayette, Indiana to Yakima, Washington to open a Burger Chef restaurant in 1967. The subsequent years in the 1970’s spent over a hamburger grille and deep fryer, serving an eager and hungry public Happy Meals, cheap collectibles, high-fructose corn syrup and grease would in-due help inform his artwork tremendously.
Richmond worked for 17 years at three different Alberstons grocery stores around Washington State. In hindsight, the time spent in the grocery store business would be as equally informative on his art as was his time working at his father’s Burger Chef. The grocery stores provided a museum of pop culture and capitalism to critique and absorb. Plugging along with his life, he began attending art walks in downtown Seattle around the late-1980’s. It was around this time when he developed a curiosity for contemporary art. At first, it was a distraction to his monotonous life. But it would eventually develop into a full-blown passion. In the years that followed, he would spend countless hours in art museums, galleries, watching documentaries and reading at the Seattle library.
After years of working soul-sucking jobs, married and divorced twice by now, he unenthusiastically took a job as an accountant in 1999. In 2006, Richmond came to Norman, Oklahoma to visit an old high school friend. Wanting a new start, he applied for and eventually accepted a Staff Accounting II position at The University of Oklahoma.
Continuing his passion for art anywhere he could find it, he didn’t start making any until fairly recently. It wasn’t until he befriended Prof. Bob Dohrmann at the University of Oklahoma School of Visual Arts in 2016, who ultimately encouraged Richmond to, “Start making stuff, why not?” Dohrmann suggested that Richmond turn his decades long hobby of thrift store, antique and LP record collecting into an art practice. After he completed approx. 30 pieces, Prof. Dohrmann insisted that Richmond exhibit his work and offered to assist him in finding venues. Richmond was very reluctant, but eventually agreed. Completely self-taught, the work presented in this exhibition is the product of Richmond’s obsessive work ethic since 2018. Introverted and humble by nature, he has no plans to stop “making stuff” anytime soon.
Who is Robert Dohrmann?
Robert Dohrmann received his MFA in Painting and Drawing in 1992 at Central Washington University, Ellensburg, Washington. In 1999 he took a position in the department in the Foundations area. Over the years he has taught a variety of Studio courses, but currently the bulk of his teaching duties have been in the Core area and an online comic book theory course.
In 2018, Dohrmann took the pseudonym: Leon Richmond. In combination with traditional 2D materials and collage techniques, the objects used to construct his body of work are mostly large romantic cardboard print paintings, shadow box clocks, unlistenable LP records and a variety of found objects. The process of cultural anthropology (picking though thrift stores) is conducted anywhere he happens to find junk stores. He likens these stores to museums (also consumer graveyards) where affordable consumer goods go to die and hopefully be reborn. When he finds something that piques his curiosity, he “re-arts” the object and gives it a new life through remix and mash-up strategies. The antiquated appearance in the found pieces are crucial, as each vintage object comes with a ready-made veneer of age. It signifies American consumer history and points directly to our current relationship to many concerning topics of today, such as middle/upper class consumerism, low-cost mass production, religious intolerance, unmonitored capitalistic greed, climate concerns, patriarchal power systems and White American hierarchies.