New art exhibition displays international Stuckism movement, discusses elitism in art

Richard Bledsoe (Courtesy Richard Bledsoe)
Richard Bledsoe, pictured here, was an integral member in organizing the “International Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors” show at The Trunk Space. (Courtesy Richard Bledsoe)

The modern art exhibition, “Internation Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors,” which includes the works of 28 artists from 6 countries, had its opening reception Friday at The Trunk Space on Grand Avenue.

The exhibition is being curated by Phoenix artist and poet Richard Bledsoe, whose own work fits among this exhibit of local artists and others from New York, England, Wales, Spain, France and the Czech Republic.

The Stuckism movement originated in England in 1999 as a reaction to what the original Stuckists perceived as the stuffiness and inaccessibility of conceptual high art of the time, Richard said.

“London was the center of the art world and conceptual art was the big art,” Richard said. “That’s what was getting bank-rolled and promoted by everybody. That was the local art scene at the time, big mega-stars like Damien Hirst making millions by putting a shark in a tank of formaldehyde.”

Billy Childish and Charles Thomson founded Stuckism and the broader movement Remodernism, both of which advocate for what Richard called “art that comes from inside of people instead of art that is striking a pose.”

“The way our cultural institutions handle and present art is not really serving the needs of the people anymore,” Richard said.

As a result, Richard said that much of the high art world is suffering a disconnect from everyday people.

“Art is for everybody. It’s the universal language that inspires humanity,” he said. “But that’s not the type of thing that’s prevalent in the organized art world right now. The art world is undergoing a crisis of relevance. Hardly anyone who is not intimately involved in the art world itself is really paying attention to this stuff, and this is a huge loss for society.”

Remodernist artists seek to reconnect to common people and remain relevant by presenting more down-to-earth material.

“In this context, you’ve got these people who are still making hands-on art, engaging, exploring themselves, not putting out products they don’t make themselves and pretending to be celebrities, people that are really trying to create something,” Richard said.

The exhibition at The Trunk Space displayed a variety of artistic styles. As Richard explains, what defines Remodernist art is “primarily a question of motivation more so than a particular look or approach to art.”

“I know people who make art in all sorts of different ways,” Richard said. “The motivation for them is putting themselves out there, it’s all very intimate, personal, symbolic. You have these people who are doing art because they feel compelled to do it.”

For Richard, the point of Remodernism is its do-it-yourself philosophy and inclusiveness.

“To me, this isn’t really about an art career. What I’m dealing with is the health of our civilization. Are we going to be people who settle for inferior results because authority tells us that’s the way it’s going to be? Or are we people that realize we can do better ourselves if we step up and do the work that it takes? I find that an incredibly liberating idea.”

Michele Bledsoe, a painter and Richard’s wife, displayed some of her recent work in the gallery.

“There are some truly beautiful works from people all around the world who make art just the way I do,” Michele said. “People who are compelled to make art, whose lives revolve around art, and have an unbearable need to make art and the joy of being able to take your innermost secrets and everything about yourself and to manage to put it onto a canvas and share it with other people.”

Joe Montano III, another Phoenix artist in the exhibition, drew influence for his paintings from sources as diverse as Mexican folk art, urban graffiti and murals, traditional Christian imagery, Martin Scorsese’s iconoclastic film “The Last Temptation of Christ” and 1990s indie rock bands like Pavement and Guided by Voices.

“I wanted to have the eyes of a child,” Montano said. “Every time you go to a canvas, it’s like the first time you’re painting. There’s nothing highfalutin’ about that.”

Michele Bledsoe had work featured in the exhibition. Above is “The Lovers,” an acrylic on canvas. (Courtesy Richard Bledsoe)

The show is not funded by any grants or external institutions. Richard directly reached out to the artists himself, starting with Stuckist co-founder Charles Thomson, who also has work included in the show alongside fellow original Stuckist Ella Guru. Richard plans to offer much of the art pieces as a donation to a local museum.

“It is hard enough to coordinate a show with the local artists,” Michele said, “let alone manage to get art coming from multiple countries all here in time for this amazing show.”

The Trunk Space co-owner Stephanie Carrico said when Richard brought her the idea of the show, she was “really amazed” by his idea and his ability to cull work from international artists for the show.

Carrico said the exhibition has similarities with many of the art shows The Trunk Space puts on, such as last year’s “We Got Power! – Hardcore Punk Scenes from 1980s Southern California.”

“We try to keep it folk art-ish, but contemporary,” Carrico said. “It’s art by the people, but not cheesy.”

For Richard, the independence of the exhibition and venue aligns with the values of the artists themselves.

“The common thread of the Remodernists that I know in Phoenix is that they’re not in the art for the gatekeepers or to impress anybody, but only art that their soul moves them to make,” Richard said. “When you express your own individual soul well enough, it’s something that anyone can relate to.”

“Internation Stuckists: Explorers and Inventors” will be on display until Feb. 15.

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