Steve Locke takes on new exhibit
Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 01:09
Walking into the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is like entering an entirely different world. This world is an apt representation of contemporary art and the socio-cultural trends of our time. Amongst the vast array of paintings and installations is a corner that contains a small, yet distinct, collection. This corner, much like the rest of the building, reflects the sentiments of a local artist from Boston: Steve Locke.
On the white walls of the ICA hangs Locke’s colorful and diverse collection of oil paintings from his exhibit titled “there is no one left to blame.” When entering this space, one cannot help but notice a recurrent theme from his works. Though it is persistent throughout his exhibit, this theme does not hinder Locke from making each piece unique in its message and aesthetic. His paintings primarily feature male faces with their tongues sticking out. Though confusing at first, his intentions become clearer once visitors look at the collection as a whole. Through his bold and visible brush strokes, Locke satirizes a multitude of issues prevalent today. According to Locke, the action of sticking one’s tongue out prevents that person from being taken seriously.
In an interview on the ICA’s website, Locke explains why he focused so heavily on that particular facial expression:
“It’s hard to make a painting of a man and not have him look important,” Locke said. “So I came up with this weird gesture. I like that they’re not heroic.”
Thus, by painting faces of men, he mocks the idea of masculine authority that is typically presented as powerful and dominant. Through his depiction of these figures, Locke challenges this idea by arguing that male authority should not be viewed so earnestly in a world riddled with terrorism, crime and pain. He implies that this authority, much like “sticking a tongue out,” should not be taken so seriously, either because it is the cause of current issues or because it fails to rectify them.
One painting, titled “the rising up,” particularly catches the eye. The brightness of the pink color, the size of work and the lack of contrast between the background and the face itself may at first seem confusing. However, it is this quality that forces the viewer to actually look at the painting. Locke’s works are primarily painted on wooden panels and are occasionally attached to metal poles — a feature which gives another dimension to his art.
“I like that they’re
not attached to any body,” Locke said later in the interview. “They’re floating around in the atmosphere, waiting to possess somebody, or get inside your head and transform you.”
Another notable piece in the exhibit is “a brief history.” This tiny portrait is painted over a blue background that stands out against the colors of the face. Attached to a metal pole, this painting almost seems like it is standing, and the face appears to be looking directly at the viewer. As exemplified by “a brief history,” Locke’s use of colors is very diverse. The backgrounds of all of his paintings are bright, and the faces reflect similar, but lighter, tones of that same background color. This formula keeps the viewer from being overly distracted by the face and the idea of the funny man.
Steve Locke is successful in making his viewers think about the many issues that exist in the world today. His collection may seem small — even repetitive — but it is intended to be so. The vast numbers of painted faces in the exhibit emphasize the notion that there is no one else to mock or blame. His work may seem confusing at first, but the message he conveys makes visiting it worth the trip.