Joe Biel, “Stack 6 (Dave)", 2014 Watercolor, Gouache and Graphite on Paper 51 x 38 cm
Opening reception:Friday 2sd. May 2014
Joe Biel's work was, and still is, a poetic clash between beauty and the sometimes brutal absurdities of the contemporary world. He frequently places his figurative drawings in a bottomless, negative space. As a result, his figures, torn away from any narrative surroundings, are isolated in their own being. Recurring pictorial themes in his works are humaneness, irony, contradictoriness, change, and transformation. His works know no fixed interpretation. The observer is invited to emotionally approach or distance him/herself from the works. Biel always leaves it to his audience to come up with an interpretation. The scenes, although they are often frozen in a specific moment, begin to move on automatically. Consequently, Biel insists that people participate in, and not passively observe, his works.
With his work Veil, he is in the process of creating his panopticon of the cultural and media landscape of the 21st century. On more than 1,000 television screens, he captures scenes from classical films, excerpts from works of art, recordings of concerts, scenes from the daily flood of TV broadcasts, news, sex, and infamous and less infamous personalities going about their daily affairs, supplemented again and again by a white hiss. Here, the fragment is the decisive motif. Biel sees in it the artistic heritage of our age, and describes it as his way of recording information. During the process of selecting the scenes, items of personal relevance, such as particular films and music, become a drop in the ocean of monitors.
Joe Biel will probably finish his work on Veil in autumn 2014. Although the work will not yet be on show at his present exhibition Short Stack, but it will still be important, because it represents the starting point for his group of works entitled Stack.
He refers to his stacks as his little collages. The pictures flickering across the television screens have been composed as poetic montages and construction kits of associations. Here, too, Biel distances himself from a rational selection - allowing space for an intuitive selection process instead. He frankly admits that he doesn't always understand the selection himself. For instance, Stack 6 (Dave) shows two isolated figures - one of them floating in water. The title of the work makes it possible to solve the riddle of the identity of one of the objects represented, but this is by no means the key to understanding the work. More decisive than the history of the thing presented is, it would seem, the moment of presentation and what is being transported. Hence, it is, on the one hand, a mixture of astonishment, fear and reverence and, on the other hand, perhaps something like fighting spirit and exhaustion, too. As with Stack 6 (Dave), the other works in this series live off the energy of the pictures, each one a tiny riddle, and each a new story.
Joe Biel was born in Boulder, Colorado in 1966. In 1990, he received his MFA in painting at the University of Michigan. He currently teaches art and design at California State University, Fullerton. In 2003 and 2008, he received the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award. His large-format work Compound is a part of the new hanging Bruegel Land at the Stedelijk Museum Lier and the KMSK in Antwerp, Belgium. He has been living and working in Los Angeles, CA, since 2000.