It’s not hard to believe that before he ventured into the medium of collage Daniel Biddy began as an abstract painter. His first solo exhibition, Out of Context, currently on display at Barbara Archer Gallery, shows a clear concentration on composition and color that causes individual details to become secondary to overall aesthetic impact. That said, the specific images chosen to make up the collages are what makes them succeed.
To date, I have been primarily familiar with Biddy’s small square compositions, and the exhibition includes a great range of these. But his large-scale pieces, part-painting and part-collage with colors arranged in op-art-esque patterns, are show-stoppers. The fullness and breadth of imagery in the gallery gives us a peek into the inner workings of Biddy’s mind: a wonderful look into the obsessive process that has led the artist to collect so many books and magazines for finding images, as well as the endless hours spent cutting each piece out so exactly. Every element has been considered, down to the whimsically descriptive titles chosen for all 73 works in the series.
Biddy says in his artist statement that his process is like a conversation with his materials: “Each subsequent addition or subtraction to the composition is a response to the previous. My tools of ‘language’ are line, color, and collected images from printed media.” The seemingly random pop-cultural images that he selects, however, also comprise the language of a larger visual culture that Biddy is addressing. Everything from Kermit the Frog to Albrecht Durer’s Self-Portrait coalesces to create a poetic dialogue about our Western consumerist history.
Each collage also becomes its own dialogue with the audience as it engages us through the various ways of viewing each work. New realities are created from one viewer to the next, as our individual cultural consciousnesses hieratically arrange the elements based on our own experiences. Biddy’s arrangement and selection of imagery provides the forum for these inner dialogues, while simultaneously mediating our experience with his works through his choices.
Although each composition is drastically different in imagery and theme, subtle links cleanly tie the entire exhibition together. Pieces such as No Glove No Love and Daddy was an Astronaut incorporate lines of color that resonate with the lined patterns of Biddy’s larger works.
The most striking work of the exhibition, Impulsion (Green Acres is the Place To Be), is a garden of unnaturally colored greens surrounded by bold, graphic lines of black and white. A reference to the fantastical television land of Green Acres, Biddy has created a world of mass-produced imagery at times crudely assembled. The black and white lines flanking the nebulous forms of green only emphasizes the constructed nature of this world. Even the title Impulsion implies a kind of propelling forward, perhaps into a new existence where everything is subject to a Matrix-like false reality.
The exhibit shows an extremely well-developed body of work that is thoughtfully arranged to suck you into every frame.
Daniel Biddy’s Out of Context continues at Barbara Archer Gallery through November 27.