CRG Gallery is pleased to present POTUS, Brian Tolle’s third solo exhibition with the gallery. The acronym POTUS, or President Of The United States, first appeared in early telegraph code. For this exhibition, Tolle deciphers the multi-layered tradition of Presidential commemorative depiction for the current era. Within each sculpture, Tolle conflates a president’s public persona, iconography and associated ephemera. The artist’s central interest is to demonstrate how these cultural relics are integrated into popular memory and, eventually, the consumer market.
Of the men who have served as President of the United States, Tolle focuses on some of the most revered and reviled. For each presidential depiction, Tolle applies components that echo vestiges of America’s craft, industry and ever-shifting global reputation, emblemized by each POTUS.
A strand of glass and lettered beads spills out of a clear acrylic facsimile of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s bust of George Washington. The letters spell out a transcript of Washington’s second inaugural address to the nation; this strand of beads terminates with a Pur- ple Heart medal, originally created and designed by Washington to reward wounded Revolutionary War soldiers.
A rubber mask of Nixon popularized in the film Dog Day Afternoon, rests atop a Uher 5000 tape recorder, the same model made famous by his erased recorded conversations. The imported rubber mask and German technology reflect the changing global marketplace occurring during Nixon’s time in office.
Barack Obama’s “coif” is comprised of a collector’s set of miniature presidential figurines of the men that precede him, a visual metaphor of the historic burden he carries.
The sculptures are titled according to each President’s numeral place in succession: No. 1, No. 3, No. 16, No. 34, No. 35, No. 37, No. 40, No. 44, respectively: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.
The circus of today’s “entertainment politics” offers a perfect milieu for Tolle’s objects with their mix of anecdotal humor and historical fact.
Brian Tolle’s public works include: the Irish Hunger Memorial, Battery Park City, NYC, NY, a one-half acre sculpture on the Hudson River, reshaping the landscape with a full-scale replica of a hillside Irish farm desiccated by the potato famine; Threshold, The New School, New York, NY, 2006; Stronghold, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 2007; Simnai Dirdro (Twisted Chimney), Rhymney, Wales, UK, 2010; Remembering Walter H. Deubner – the inventor of the shopping bag, Cerritos, CA, 2010; Origin, University of Houston, Houston, TX, 2014; Outflow, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 2015; Pagent, Brooklyn, NY, installation spring 2016.
Courtesy of CRG Gallery