Seth Curcio: American Landscape

Opening reception: June 28, 6-9 p.m.

On view through July 19


Modernisme, The Gallery at Avondale

21 Magnolia Road, 763-1551

Seth Curcio doesn’t do things the easy way. The director of Redux Contemporary Art Center hasn’t taken the straightforward route of showing big names, topical media, or easily accessible art styles. He’s stretched the idea of what Redux can show with digital art (January’s New Structures), street art (last year’s Project Aerosol), and even a literary lecture tour around the gallery.

His website has delivered on its promise of “new art every day” for six months now. Instead of tying it in with his Redux-running burdens, he takes pains to point out that they’re entirely separate entities.

For his solo art show at Modernisme in West Ashley, does he take the easy way out and show his familiar painted abstracts? Not a chance. His new exhibition, American Landscape, has been created with what he describes as “the accessible materials of mass commerce” — Xerox and laser copiers, screen prints, billboard pasting, enamel paints, vinyl stuck on the walls. He takes icons like the Hummer, a boxing match, and a map of the U.S. and gives them a new artistic spin. The colors are muted, with a propensity of grey and dark blue. His approach is challenging, but not always negative.

Throughout, Curcio is trying to stay one step ahead of the crowd, deconstructing some images that “have not been recognized” as powerful cultural symbols yet. Others, like the U.S. map, have been totemic for a long time. Curcio makes a mirror image of the map and places it next to its original form in “Headringer I & II” with shapes scattered across the continent. These organic-looking “Siamese States” achieve exactly what the artist’s hoping for — viewers can look at an over-familiar image in a new light. In another twist, he adds an atlas patchwork to the sky of “Anywhere and Everywhere,” floating above a split landscape. Blank billboards draw the eye to the lower sides of the piece, suggesting that national concerns loom over a land where no one has anything constructive to say.

An untitled picture of a luxury H3 will have different connotations for different viewers, depending on which side of the eco-fence they’re on. The Hummer’s been in an accident, and although this vehicle isn’t going to war, Curcio’s negative-photograph colors give it a military paint job. He references our familiarity with War on Terror news footage and plants them right in a neighborhood setting.

Other, similar recontextualizations branch off his work for a group show called The Changing Face of Charleston, which was held at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in February. That exhibition investigated current architectural icons of our city; American Landscape goes further, embracing universal images. A good example is “Like Kings,” a depiction of boxers that highlights the ubiquity of aggressive spectacle in our society. Curcio acknowledges the violence but also calls the piece “structured and positive. It can go either way. All my work can elicit different responses.”

Whether those responses are good or bad, they won’t be indifferent. By collapsing his pictures in on themselves, the artist captures the warped, unpredictable nature of our present environment.

That’s a far cry from the disciplined helpings of, the site that aims to consolidate contemporary art information and eats up a lot of Curcio’s time. It’s constantly updated, literally changing every 24 hours; Curcio writes for it every day and edits site content.

“It’s a huge commitment,” he says of the unique site, which has proved popular with artists and contemporary art researchers. “It’s been successful in terms of web traffic and participation,” he adds.

By drawing on international contributions and giving the goods on headline-grabbing contemporary artists like Mark Ryden, Dalek, and Larry Clark as well as talented up-and-comers, the site continues to expand, fascinate, and inform.

With all this on his plate, life isn’t going to get easier for Curcio any time soon. But, presumably, that’s the way he likes it.