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The Gulf Coast Museum of Art
12211 Walsingham Road Largo, FL 33778
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|Wall Text for ENGULFED at the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo, Florida.
Dedicated to advancing 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s notion of the aesthetic object as a ‘Creative Lie’ which in turn reveals greater truths, EMERGENT GARDE: ENGULFED is in actuality a solo exhibition of artworks by Diran Lyons, an emerging conceptual artist originally from California. ENGULFED presents six new works tailored to appear as a group show that homogenizes internationally recognized artists Pia Fries, Charles Gaines, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Katharina Grosse, and Donald Lipski, as well as Lyons himself. Each engages contemporary theories of the sublime in their respective artistic practices. The artworks as a whole are original and hitherto unseen by the public, but are attributed to and labeled with the names of the artists fictitiously included in the exhibit to create an aesthetic environment of illusion primed for investigation.
The exhibition can thus be experienced in two distinct ways: 1) as a multifaceted collection of conceptually related pieces investigating contemporary aesthetics of the sublime, or 2) a space fraught with conceptual instability that brings to the fore issues of representation and ownership, critically celebrating an artistic milieu imbued with deception.
According to the former interpretation, the artworks included in the exhibition make use of the politics of the cinema, the horror film, the ways in which we enjoy suspense, representations of catastrophe or potential for such, and the imagination’s difficulty in comprehending – and presenting and instance of – the infinite. All of these impose upon us an experience commingling pleasure with pain. Through its overpowering and overwhelming features, the sublime object manifests a reverberant relationship between pleasure and pain, inducing inexpressibly painful feelings that transform into pleasurable philosophical reflection. The intense experience of pathos hereby outlined and involved in the works immediately prompts the contemplation of ethics. The pieces bring with them a host of moral questions, but in many cases – unfortunately – there are no clear-cut answers.
The latter reading of the show is a meditation upon Nietzsche’s contentious proclamation that “art is only possible as a lie, treating illusion as illusion.” Assuming the critical posture of the artist as a Tom Sawyer of sorts, Diran Lyons makes a use of art that develops the notion of the aesthetic object as something that intrinsically lies: it does not reveal the truth immediately or straightforwardly, but rather pulls the wool over a viewer’s eyes to help one discover a greater truth that lies behind it. Modernist and capitalist predilections toward the masterseries – along with the format of “the group exhibition” that engages a common theme – are allegorized and questioned through the fibbing feature of the exhibition’s contextualization, revealing the complex nature, multidisciplinary scope, and freedom available to the artist-philosopher at the beginning of the new millennium.
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