James Robert Southard

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James Robert Southard, USA

E-mail : rob@jamesrsouthard.com
Website : http://www.jamesrsouthard.com/

Solo Exhibition
2010   The Inherent Pull, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers,
          Pittsburgh, Pa
2009   Neither Here Nor There, Zephyr Gallery, Louisville Ky

Group Exhibitions
2011   BYOB Venezia, Internet Pavilion, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice Italy
         Chain Letter: Boston, Samsøn, Boston Ma
         Two-Minute Film Festival, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh Pa
         New Insight Exhibition, Art Chicago, Chicago IL
         Up Down Up Down, MFA Thesis Exhibition, Miller Gallery, Pittsburgh Pa
2010  BYOB/ Space Gallery, Pittsburgh Pa
         Pittsburgh Billboard Arts, The city of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Pa
         Moscow International Biennale For Young Art "Qui Vive?", Moscow, Russia
         Art Scouts, Arlington Arts Center, Arlington Va
         Paducah Photo 2010, Yeiser Art Center, Paducah Ky
         Quiet in the Land?, Future Tenant, Pittsburgh Pa
         Rehearse, Rewind, Repeat, Ohio University Seigfred Gallery, Athens, Oh
2009  Infinity, UnSmoke Artspace, Braddock Pa
         Athens Video Art Festival, City of Athens, Greece
Awards & Honors
Kentucky Arts Council Individual Artist Professional Development Grant 2010
CMU Graduate Assistant Scholarship, Pittsburgh PA 2008 – 2011
Featured Artist, Myartspace.com, Palo Alto, California, 2008 & 2010

Adjunct Professor, Hite Art Institute at University of Louisville, Louisville Ky 2011
Adjunct Professor, Kentucky School of Art at Spalding University, Louisville Ky 2011
Instructor, 2D: Imaging Photography Seminars, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh PA 2011

A Critique of James Robert Southard

Julia Marsh(Full-time Lecturer, Seoul National University)

When I first saw James Robert Southard work I was struck by the formal and painstaking arrangement of his images, and the obvious, although not explicit references to the Renaissance and Mannerist schools of painting. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon (MFA 2011) and a recent artist in residence at Seoul Art Space_Geumcheon, Southard latest series of works <Tooth and Nail> take the form of photographic tableaus that he scripts and stages through dialogs with selected groups, who then become the subjects depicted in the images. In this way Southard’s images can be said to be performative; however consequential to the outcome, this stagecraft is limited to the earliest stages, and is in some ways overwhelmed by the later stages of development. So, although each image is based on a story developed by these groups, with guidance from Southard, and they can therefore also be called collaborative in nature, these images are definitely the constructions of the artist, in that their effect is especially dependent on his use of photographic technology. Yet for all their resulting spectacle, in reality the images have a surprising low production value, in terms of costumes and props, that is, they are made with what is readily available and at hand. It is later, when they are altered with digital processing and adjustments that they take on the grandness of their historical referents.

So while Southard’s images are constructed, frozen moments in a cursory art historical time, they are also referencing perhaps the need for context and historical placement, subjectivity and identity in the technological age we have entered. Which is why the performative and collaborative aspects of these works should not be overlooked, however anonymous the participants become in the naming of these works or how effortless and controlled the outcomes appear. Actually, that tension, here between community driven work and objectively mastered images, is the very similar to the one at the core of photography’s complicated history. Works like Southard’s push up against the supposed universality and communal aspects of photography that need to be weighed against the distancing and erasing also made possible by the medium, what Allan Sekula delineated as “a system of representation capable of functioning both honorifically and repressively.” ⅰ Like Wendy Ewald, who gives the camera to others to take the picture, Southard seeks to relieve photography of this burden by incorporating the randomness of collaboration. A comparison could also be made with the Korean photographer Joseub whose pictorial dramas also seek to clarify and bring nearer moments in history and moreover how violence as a part of social mores is played out in everyday Korean life. Likewise in the dramas of Southard there liesa cinematic element that appears to be an attempt to undermine the static, perhaps numbing effect of photography.

Ultimately the apparatus of photography cannot help but simultaneously bring closer and repel that which it depicts. And like the style mannerist artists created, “characterized by artificiality and artiness, by a thoroughly self-conscious cultivation of elegance and technical facility, and by a sophisticated indulgence in the bizarre,”ⅱ Southard’s body of work reflects imitation and aplomb, the tightening and loosening of control over the work. And here is where what is intrinsic to both photography and painting in terms of pictorial representation meet. As a mannerist the idea is to stand in, to fool, to supplant, other more faithful works, and as a photograph no matter how much the view looks unselfconscious it is not, it is entirely observed by camera and maker. This confluence can leave viewers confidently taking for granted the pictorial references without further inspection, but Southard’s works challenge us to take a close look. The compositions show the stage to be sloppy. By playing on our expectations of art and art history, our visual memory and literacy, when the unity is disturbed by a lawnmower in the throne room <Tooth and Nail #2>, it is overwhelming present and poetic, in the intent outward gaze of one figure in <Tooth and Nail # 8>, shattering the easy assumptions and coherence we perceive early and from a distance.