“I like the spectacle of it,” said artist Tim Jag, “I love how the circus comes into your town and does this big weekend, and then they pack up and they’re gone…quite the freedom.”
And that is what internationally recognized showmen Tim Jag and Gary Parkins have done for a week living in The New BLK Gallery, mattresses on the floor, bags unpacked, art supplies a sprawl, to create the site-specific installation exhibit, Wheel of Fortune: The Art of Spinning Out of Control which continues through July 31.
The first time New BLK has hosted artists-as-residence, it is also the first time the gallery is exhibiting artists from outside of the state. Jag hales from Santa Fe, known for his pop-patterned, hard-edged color wheel paintings and performance art. Parkins, internationally recognized for his intricately delicate machinations, drawings and installations, is from Houston. Jag’s wife, Ann Fulayter, contributes her juxtaposed stuffed animals to Wheel of Fortune.
"Just two weeks ago, they asked if they could stay in the gallery to really envelope themselves in the space they were going to transform," said New BLK owner Shane Bainbridge. "It’s worked out great, they have their own routine and figured out the area…it is a great introduction for us with this type of show and residency, and we'll see if more follow."
Jag and Parkins first collaborated in a cross-country road trip of steady-video-recording and interviews from Montana to Arizona, including some serious footage soon after the David Koresh cult tragedy broke out in 1993 near Waco, Texas, and gained significant national news for their resulting show in Phoenix.
Their current collaboration here in Omaha is less serious but equally stirring. In this exhibit Parkins’ high-hung, delicate web-like installation seduces visitors from the very minute they enter the BLK. The shiny laced hot glue and fishing line elegantly drapes down enveloping the studio, as Jag’s vibrant carnival tent paintings line the wall, beckoning you to come one, come all, step right up, to the show down the hall.
Fulayter’s creepy-happy mutated stuffed-animals greet you in the main gallery, hanging from the ceiling in traditional carnival-prize style. From a dolphin-caterpillar, to a giraffe-frog-elephant, they play on the oddity of such scenes. Even with the almost raunchy heightened anatomy of some of the invented animals, they’re still rendered lovable.
Her amalgamated pieces gauge the dynamic for the show including the hilarious beauty of Jag’s rich paintings, and the complex austerity of Parkins’ delicate drawing machines and their intense, interactive combined installations.
“The feel of this show is different from anything we have done together,” said artist and inventor Parkins. “A lot of what I build myself is elegant, austere, very into root principals of beauty….Tim has a way of getting people together and creating energy which is evident in his dynamic work.”
This spontaneous interactivity begins with the show-titled “Wheel of Fortune;” a Jag-painted wheel where visitors literally spin and win from the “Wall of Fortune” of dozens of mini-mixed media pieces by Jag. The wheel is lined with random words by Jag like “awesomeness” that match the rows of layered paintings on the wall, to which those who pay $20 to spin and win can select. As such, the piece itself is continuously morphing-- with every new spin, there’s a new visual piece revealed from under the first, keeping it continuous, one of Jag’s main goals for the show.
“I wanted the show to be upbeat, allowing people to interact and be able to enjoy the whole experience,” said Jag, also a respected DJ and performance artist known as “orangeman.”
Across from the Wheel of Fortune Wall lies the “Mini-Mart” wall of print-paintings designed by The New BLK and painted by Jag himself exclusively for this show and its visitors, each signed by the artist for just $10.
For free, people can spin the fortune-telling roulette wheel and get a Jag-and-Parkins inspired absurdly written future which Jag described as “sometimes light and funny, sometimes very dark.”
The back of the gallery poses a different feel than the front with Parkins’ deeply connected live drawing-machine and resulted drawings—hatchings of thousands of pen marks created by a machine he invented using mostly familiar house-hold items such as clothes-hangers and packaging tape.
Parkins, an avid traveler with international exhibitions, said the impetus for such pieces was the ability to make them on residencies and trips.
“I create rather complex abstractions with rudimentary machines,” he said. “I build conceptual systems that I can build anywhere, and I can just Fed-Ex myself the parts that I need.”
Parkins, who also worked as technical assistant to art world leaders Ed and Nancy Kienholz, is the technical wizard of the duo, his immense drawing machine coaxing curiosity from across the room, the simple detail of the sometimes small, sometimes wall-sized drawings evoking a sort-of “calm after the storm” of the show.
But, too, the drawing machines are a playful element, added Parkins.
“These machines are very sensitive and aware of the environment. If someone moves, if the air conditioning blows, it affects the drawing. In that way, it sort of encapsulates the community around it.”
Community is key for Jag and Parkins who have enjoyed the “generous and friendly” Omaha community and hope the city enjoys their production and takes with it a sense of amusement and positivity.
“This is really an unconventional type of show for our gallery,” Bainbridge said. “We’re rolling with it and excited to get Omaha in to experience the fun, interactive off-the-wall pieces of Jag’s and Parkins’ technically detailed installations.”
Wheel of Fortune: The Art of Spinning Out of Control is showing at The New BLK, 1213 Jones Street, through July 31. For gallery hours visit thenewblk.com.