Saturday, June 08, 2019

More Obsessions: Thoughts and things that keep living in my head

F. Lennox Campello
More Obsessions: Thoughts and things that keep living in my head

Stone Tower Gallery
7300 MacArthur Blvd.
Glen Echo, MD 20812
Exhibition:  F. Lennox Campello: More Obsessions
Exhibition dates: July 5 to 28, 2019
Gallery Hours: Saturday & Sunday, 11am to 6pm and by appointment
Art Walk Reception: Friday, July 5, 6 to 8pm

Is technology part of contemporary art? Of course it is! 
Is technology a drug that causes obsessions? Of course it is! 
A compulsive drive to work the same image or idea repeatedly is not that rare an issue in the pages of art history. Nearly every major museum in Europe has a similar version of El Greco’s vision of Christ throwingthe merchants from the Temple, and Mondrian redefined the same abstractcomposition of color blocks over and over, and over, as did Italian artist Giorgio Morandi, who obsessively returned to the same basic still life over, and over, and over. 
What drives those “obsessions” is a matter for debate, as well as for much furrowing of eyebrows at art schools across the planet, where it is generally noted as a negative trait for an artist. 
F. Lennox Campello, who the Washington City Paper included a few years back in their annuallisting of Washington’s most interesting people, not only relishes in returning to the same subject many times over, but in some cases the “many times” have over the four decades of obsessions delivered interpretations now numbering in the hundreds for a single subject. 
A new obsession to Campello has been the incorporation of technology to help his other obsession (telling a story via his artwork) succeed.  Video and sound become powerful narrative additions to almost classical drawings.

“Your Portrait in a Gallery of Portraits” is such an obsessive narrative technical and technological composition. In the charcoal and conte drawing, we see a solitary figure from the back, as she visits an art gallery. To both sides of the figure embedded digital screen search online and put a new portrait of a famous person every five seconds on each screen. The center screen seems empty at first, until a viewer approaches it, and realizes that their image is now part of the work (captured by a hidden miniature camera). 

The work (exhibited in the DC area for the first time), has kindled an unexpected response from the viewers during its initial exhibition at the Art Basel week of art fairs in Miami last year. “I noticed – and recorded – hundreds and then thousands of people taking a selfie of themselves ‘inside’ my artwork,” notes Campello, “… a selfie of a selfie, if you will…,” he adds. 
Other obsessions also make an appearance: the Picts of ancient pre-Celtic Scotland (where Campello lived for several years), Argentine revolutionary mass murderer Ché Guevara, the Biblical Eve, and the Kabbalah’s Lilith, Saint Sebastian, Saint John the Baptist, a naked Supergirl, enjoying a nudie flight, Campello’s own secret messages in a secret written code. 
The artist, who was a US Navy cryptologic officer for over two decades, has invented a secret visual written language which is a marriage of ancient Celtic Ogham (the secret writing code of the ancient Druids) with the more modern US Navy Falcon Codes, a series of phrases with double meanings. They also appear, hidden in the shadows of bodies and objects throughout some of the drawings.