The work of Denver’s Donald Fodness doesn’t take itself too seriously. What is serious, however, is not only the artist’s vision but also his ability to use unexpected materials to incredible effect. His VHS and album cover works featured here transform the lame film subjects on their surface into rabid, grotesque, confusing, and fantastically humorous amalgamations of ghastly doodles and text. The works also function as a window into Fodness’s larger (and weirder) sculptural, installation, and transdisciplinary practice.
[Donald’s drawings] form a narrative out of props from everyday life digesting the mess of images. Donald’s ability to draw with an amazing variety of lines is rightfully admired by everybody as well as his ability to develop stories that do not follow a linear principle.
Personally, I think his setup of a non-linear narrative is extremely relevant. The viewer gets a sense that this somehow seems to be one system in which all parts are interconnected. One senses a causality that is hermetic to everybody except for the artists himself – and to him it [exists] on an intuitive level.
-Kira Van Lil-
...Fodness’ work exudes a raw humanity, entangling the humorous and the disturbing, the playful and the grotesque. In LUVRZ B H8RZ the artist investigated figuration, a key aspect of his work, in a way that orients the figure towards domesticity and an interconnected duality. The sculptures are part domestic object and part figure, but not completely one or the other. Reiterating a sense of domestic partnership, separate figures are bound together as one through materials, stature, demeanor, and scale; even separate heads share a torso. Fodness’ work embraces a crude, cartoon-like quality with a dry, grotesque emotional intensity. Pop culture, symbolism, and wit pervade his work. For example, the two-headed figure with skulls composed of a corncob pipe and flowerpot could literally be a “pot-head.” And the title, LUVRZ B H8RZ, (pronounced “lovers be haters”) pays tribute to leet speak, or “1337speak”, a cavalier tone common in text messaging and internet chat rooms, which uses numbers as letters. Fodness uses this colloquial language to title the installation that is similarly comprised of a diverse array of common visual vernacular found in pop culture, notably in sports. Even the recognized image of the good (possibly “lovers”) and bad (possibly “haters”) angels on one’s shoulders is found in the two-headed figures who make up this complex exhibition of common cultural symbols. Further marriage of symbols and opposites in Fodness’ exhibition include the exploration of both the differences and similarities between art and design. This multilayered installation is full of complicated multiplicities and is surprising,challenging, and in its own odd way, very real.
Your work reminds me of the constant struggle between objects and their masters. The images are toilsome by design; lines move to confuse the eye between representational images and obscure, unidentifiable scribbles. The way you integrate a labeling system, pairing the cacophony of design with straightforward labels that one finds when assembling an Ikea table, produce a dialogue that comments upon the complexity of our relationship with objects.
...(your drawings demonstrate)..., that it needs us just as much as we need it to connect us to a cultural, material culture. We need our objects because they situate us in a place and time, but they need us to assemble them, to use and rely upon them, and then to discard them at the end. These objects clutter our lives, pollute our environment by their creation and distribution, and also by their eternal presence in our landfills. Your drawings articulate that love/hate relationship that exists by our design alone...and yet we need them to ruin us.
Donald Fodness might be the last great original: His whole seemingly chaotic shtick as an artist is really quite ordered — in some secret schematic laid out in his own head — and every line of every drawing and each element of every sculpture or installation is part of the mental map he works out for the piece as he goes. So the fun of viewing his work is in figuring out how it all fits together, and that endeavor often ends in a bit of amiable head-scratching and an unrequited bafflement that’s rather energizing.
A healthy current in contemporary conceptual art is work that follows the lead of Pop and Funk dating from a half century ago, with roots going back even further, all the way to Dada. The signature of this tradition is the use of the found object or the found image, either altered or unaltered, employed as the key elements. Among Colorado artists interested in this sort of approach, which could be called Neo- Funk, is Donald Fodness. Active on the local scene for the better part of the last ten years...
...(both his drawing and sculpture)... lay out Fodness’s interests in pop culture, in particular cartoons, and in spinning elaborate narratives, both personal and social. These stories can only be understood if they’re
explicated, since the visual cues are ambiguous.
Everything in [Fodness’s work] is relatable [...], linked to both the moment and the culture. From the Denver Broncos swag to the reference to text messaging in the title, this exhibit plays on the particular trends of this month, this year, almost to the point of overload.
Topicality can be annoying in fine art, adding a fleeting quality to an experience one hopes is lasting. But bringing pop-culture references into the mix is also a brave move, trading off durability in a way that forces the work into today, into the now, as it were.
And Fodness does a few things to connect his ideas to the greater universe. Actually, he connects them literally by punching a hole in the back wall of the gallery and letting the universe in. There's a real hole and light streams in through it.
-Ray Mark Rinaldi-
When I first met Don in August 2000 in Loveland CO, he was living part-time in a VW bus and making art in a chicken coop. These are significant traits of Don’s that have resurfaced through the years and have helped him persevere in the face of life’s challenges... Don is by far the most varied and productive artist I know, so regardless of his studio location, he will create work. But he also places a high value on having the time to afford this balance of living and creating.