Catch and Release
Johnston Foster, a Richmond, VA-based artist, will present his fourth solo show, titled Catch & Release, at RARE from May 15 through June 19. He will exhibit a group of new sculptures created from salvaged materials gathered from highway medians, back roads, alleys, and dumpsters. Works include an 11-foot long, 12-legged tiger balancing a hornets’ nest in its tail, a gutted shark giving birth to its offspring, a hornet-infested pizza, and a unicorn sinking in a tar pit.
The artist continues his exploration of fundamental sculptural ideas of shape and form by utilizing and breathing new life into things that consumers consign to the dust bin. Imparting a bold, readily recognizable rough-hewn aesthetic to materials and exhibiting an exuberant, almost child-like engagement with process, he infuses his objects with a combination of wide-eyed innocence and an open-ended sensibility that is simultaneously inviting and foreboding.
Foster is a hunter & gatherer who forages for his materials before even he knows what they will become. His art-making process finds its inspiration in the simple need to create things with his hands . . . nothing more . . . nothing less. While his guess as to what the end result will be is as good as anyone’s, perhaps through a combination of subconscious compulsion and the utilization of materials that serve as a cultural X-ray, Foster is always saying something, or at least allowing viewers to “say” (or see) something through his work.
In the past, the artist’s sculpture seemed to hold up a mirror to our less attractive cultural traits of materialism, greed, and wastefulness. In anticipation of the recent birth of his son, he has produced work of a different quality, inspired more than usual by the sheer life-affirming act of creating. Tucked into the new sculpture are glimpses of the joys and fears, and outright wackiness, associated with the responsibility for creating something out of the love of doing so.
The centerpiece of the exhibition, an 11-foot long tiger titled The Keeper (2010), which sports a multitude of eyes, legs, and paws, impresses as an act of creation gone amuck. However, one will not be hard pressed to find a measure of humanity in this beast. Weighted down by its own limbs while gently cradling a hornets’ nest in its tail and transporting a swarm of hornets on its hindquarters, the tiger appears to be engaged in a symbiotic relationship.
In the more violent Catch & Release (2009), Foster still maintains a life-affirming stance – although viciously cut open and left to die, a mother shark has been forced to birth several babies that will continue on in her absence. Foster scatters a few other slices of life throughout his show: a whirling dervish of a pizza pie (Supreme, 2010) is being lifted off the ground by scores of hornets who find sustenance in its crust and toppings, while 25 severed tiger paws (Souvenir, 2010) are given lives of their own by the inclusion of an all-seeing eye in each one of them.
In 2004, Foster exhibited in one of the project rooms at PS 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, New York. A group exhibition at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco followed in 2005, along with a solo show at Brigham Young University Museum of Art in Utah. In the winter of 2007, Foster’s second museum solo show took place at University Galleries, Illinois State University (catalog). He exhibited in December 2007 at Lieu d’Images et d’Art (LIA) in Grenoble, France, and was part of a group exhibition in October 2008 at CRAC Alsace in Altkirch, France. His third solo show at RARE in September 2008 preceded a one-person exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia (catalog). He made his European solo debut in 2009 at galerieXprssns in Hamburg and will be included in two group shows in 2010: at Kidspace at MASS MoCA (Fall 2010) and at the Torrance Art Museum in California (Summer 2010).