Thursday, February 20, 2014


David Ratcliff is having one hell of an exhibition at Team Gallery on Wooster Street in Soho.

At first passing by the gallery in a peeking mode, I didn't know what to think of them, but upon entering the next day, was quite surprised and enamored with these pictures taken from a Ku Klux Klan book. David is someone who really likes to push the buttons of your psyche with his work and this set of paintings truly does that, and probably better than any of his other exhibitions. Working with stencils and spray paint, he's able to get all the information down onto canvas, and in such a way that it almost looks like they really are old books with not so great printing ink. The pages (canvas) are all covered with age spots, which are either linseed oil stains, or actual colored acrylic to look like a stain, either way they are quite intriguing. I spent much time going over each painting and with the longer viewings, made me wish I had one of these.

I'm copying this section from the Gallery website to give you more immediate insight into this exhibition...

"David Ratcliff’s process is always appropriative: he gathers visuals (often drawings or texts) from a wide variety of media, constructs large hand-made stencils and then spray-paints the collaged images onto canvases. In his latest body of paintings, the artist turns his attention exclusively to the Ku Klux Klan. These works take as both their form and their subject the official documents of the organization: incident reports, order forms, meeting minutes, etc.

These paintings appear innocent upon first glance, disguising under their quotidian bureaucracy the myopic world-view of a violent, racist organization. They feature a kind of fantasy language –- the consistent replacement of the letter “C” with “K,” for example –- and are totally divorced from commonly-held contemporary worldviews. These pieces expose the ways belief systems can relate to fiction and constructed realities, but do not suggest any emotional or political agenda whatsoever. Instead, Ratcliff uses this difficult subject matter to explore the ways in which paintings can affect an audience.

The exhibition is streamlined, both visually and in its subject matter, precluding any excess content or distraction.  The paintings share a common scale of 84 by 62 inches, while the color palettes are limited, individual works using only a single shade of paint. The backgrounds consist of raw canvas covered in yellow grease stains. These oily blotches seem familiar, but whether they recall the discarded wax paper of a fast-food hamburger, or actionist paintings, or something else altogether cannot be said."

It was quite strange to read these papers that document how a robe should be made, and what to do if you leave your post with the Klan. The minute papers for meetings and all the strange names they give to their upper Klansmen. I spent quite a while in there and I think if you head down there by March 2nd, you'll do the same. Enjoy it.

Interview with Bob Nickas

Click on image to view in larger format.

All photos taken by myself with my iphone 4. You can view even better images from the Team Gallery website, link above.


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Columbus, Ohio, United States