Following the First World War, Surrealist artists, such as Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Yves Tanguy (1900-55) and René Magritte (1898-1967) employed in their imagery “meticulous detail, recognizable scenes and objects that are taken out of natural context, distorted and combined in fantastic ways as they might be in dreams.”1 Dreams have long fascinated human beings. Many a philosopher, physician and layperson have theorized their purposes and meanings, but perhaps none more so than the artist. One such contemporary artist working in the Surrealist tradition of dreams is Jon Rappleye, whose work will be featured in the upcoming exhibit NEW/NOW: Jon Rappleye: After Eden opening at the New Britain Museum of American Art on July 30th, 2010.
Rappleye was born in Provo, Utah in 1967.2 He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and received his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.3 He lives and works in Jersey City, New Jersey and has had exhibited across the country, including at the Jeff Bailey Gallery in New York, New York and the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, California.2 Rappleye began working sculpturally in early 2007 during a residency with the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, producing works cast in china.4 However, his usual media is acrylic and spray enamel on large sheets of paper. Rappleye first works his meticulously detailed flora and fauna in black and white before taping off areas to spray paint dramatic skies and landscapes as backdrops.4
Rappleye’s repertoire of images is “recycled.” That is, they come from pop culture, art history and children’s books among other sources. Rappleye even recycles his own imagery, repeating images from one work to the next.2 In this way, the artist creates visual flights of fancy, writing “a homespun faerie tale, a recreation of cultural folklore and a personal mythology—a world populated by recurring fantastical creatures and strange hybrid phenomena.” Rappleye rejects “Scientific ‘fact’” for an “interest in the mysteries of the unknown and the unseen.”3
Perhaps among such mysteries are dreams—those nonsensical works of imagination that haunt our nights and days. One theory on the purpose of dreams is that they are the human brain’s method of processing the day’s events. When one considers that American culture is image-saturated and that most people are bombarded by millions of images daily, it is no wonder that such images might make their way into a person’s dreams. In the same way, Rappleye’s recycled images appear in his dreamscapes.
NEW/NOW: Jon Rappleye: After Eden opens July 30th, 2010 at the New Britain Museum of American Art and runs through October 24th, 2010. An opening reception will be held August 6th, 2010 from 5:30-8:00pm in conjunction with the museum’s First Friday event.
1. Arnason, H.H. and Elizabeth C. Mansfield, History of Modern Art (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2010), 320
2. New Britain Museum of American Art, “Fly with Imagination’s Eye at the NBMAA” (Press Release) (28 June 2010)
3. P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, “Studio Visit: Jon Rappleye”
4. Anuradha, “Studio Visit with Jon Rappleye” (8 July 2008)