about the exhibition
New Works 05.3
November 10, 2005–January 22, 2006about the artist
Harrell Fletcher's approach to art-making involves multiple publics and types of art, challenging conventional notions of who is the artist and what the art is. Past projects include a video of people explaining their scars, lawn sculptures made in the likeness of Fletcher's neighbors, and a participatory website (www.learningtoloveyoumore.com) created with Miranda July that offers assignments including, "Grow a garden in an unexpected spot." Each project suggests that artmaking is a subjective process of assigning value, something each of us does every day.
For a recent project in France, Fletcher subverted the usual artist/institution relationship by engaging community members to generate ideas for a local sculpture park commission. He ultimately elected to work with a nine-year old boy who proposed crafting a turtle of gold and painting it green. Fletcher’s contribution to the project involved casting the young man as the artist, helping him through museum negotiations, as well as overseeing the sketching, production, and installation of the new piece. This process, like each of Fletcher’s, opened up the sometimes closed-quarters of exhibiting art.
Born in Santa Maria, CA, in 1967, Harrell Fletcher lives in Portland, OR. He received an MFA from California College of the Arts, Oakland, CA, in 1994. Solo shows include Domain de Kerguehennec, Bignan, France (2006); Jack Hanley Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2005); and Christine Burgin, New York, NY (2004). Group exhibitions include Royal College of Art, London, England (2005); 2004 Whitney Biennial, New York, NY; and Seattle Art Museum, WA (2003).
about the project
Fletcher’s project, The American War, is a re-presentation of The War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. While on a recent visit the artist was affected by the museum (to what is called the American War in Vietnam) and became interested in instigating discussions about the war in the United States. The resulting project presents the museum refracted though Fletcher’s lens along with relevant material offering other perspectives.
Thick wood walls enclose and bisect the gallery, lending it the look and feel of a municipal organization. Walking through a doorway, viewers encounter more than one-hundred framed images Fletcher took of the museum’s documentary photographs and their bilingual didactic panels. The troubling pictures of torture, birth defects, and decimated forests bear witness to gruesome effects of American tactics on the people and land of Vietnam. The skewed angles of each emphasize the snapshot quality of the appropriation and the artist’s hand.
Just outside the doors Fletcher displays material collected from Ho Chi Minh City and San Antonio. Featured are copies of texts from the library, photos of the museum’s grounds, a Vietnamese bootleg of an American bestseller about the war, and vestiges of the public programs the artist initiated in conjunction. Fletcher historicizes these relics with information about connections to his project.
The American War makes visible a multitude of voices about this international issue, suggesting that art can and does make a difference beyond the art world.