Tucker Neel: Confabulations
A solo show at Commissary Arts Gallery
January 19 – March 1, 2007
For this current exhibition I present a selection of drawings made during the past year. I did not set out to make these drawings as artworks per-se, but more as a way to pass time and synthesize the world around me, to excavate the absurd, libidinal and unseen realities that rumble beneath every private and public social interaction. Full of humor, longing, anger and joy, the drawings and their attendant texts are filled with disjunctive observations, reflecting the fickle and constantly changeable nature of one’s day-to-day experience.
After awhile the drawings began to pile up and I found myself with an unplanned, unintentional record of a very specific period of time. Seen together as a constantly changing installation, the work is not a diary, but instead an ever-shifting, faulty and transitory memorial to an unattainable present.
INTRODUCTION by Allison Schifani.
Words are tricky things. If you can call them things. We tend to experience them, read them, think them, not in their ‘thingness’, not in themselves, but always as something else. They refer, describe, title or they fail to do so. And even as words fail, they hint at their impossible references, descriptions, titles. They invite those viewers to whom they are offered, those listeners who are able to hear them, to remake them, re-imagine them, and thus to produce them.
The collection of Tucker Neel’s works presented here get at the slippery non-thingness of language and at its effects on us. His works here offer us text paired with images to which we might suitably assume that text refers. But it is in the jarring gap between the two—the image and the text—that these artworks expose their own power.
We, as viewers, are left grasping at the text and the picture, trying to decipher, trying impossibly to force the text to make sense of the image or the image to make sense of the text. It is in this gap, revealed so cleverly, so sincerely (or perhaps so sarcastically?) by these works that we begin crack open the broader trouble at hand: the subjective experience and the voice of the subject. How precariously these two facets of the social world are linked and how ephemeral, how threatening, how bizarre and uncanny is our experience of this tenuous link.
The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure filled pages of his works (posthumously collected and formed by his students in a Course in General Linguistics) with diagrams—with pictures, trying to show a line between the sound-image (a word, spoken or written) and the concept (the thing itself, supposedly outside of language but to which it refers) to which this sound-image was to get at. What he missed, and what many thinkers have worked to explore, is that the lines he drew and redrew between a word and the concept to which it was connected was just what Neel’s works seem to get at—its not such an easy line to draw. It’s not a line at all. What lies between signifier and signified is lived experience—bodies, spaces, memories. To get from one side of the diagram to the other is to produce language, a language that communicates something, surely, but invariably something altered by its hearer, by its reader. In getting from the voice to the thing it speaks there are, it turns out, a multiplicity of voices, an infinitude of things.
Images, too, are tricky things. If you can call them things. They, too, are experienced, they are read. And they are always complicated by text. In a country where only the gravest of afflictions and deepest of pains seem immune to ironic mime and sarcasm, it is difficult to tell when—if this was ever possible—someone is saying what they mean. Neel’s works seem to hint at this trouble too because, in the end, we’re not sure we should take him seriously. By pairing the text with the image, playful, sometimes downright goofy images, we are not left just to wonder at the meaning secured somewhere, unreachably, behind the text, behind the images, but also at ourselves, our own skills at reading.
The first work I saw of this collection was given to me at an informal and somewhat raucous art opening in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. The image was a bookshelf, floating out of context on the white page, atop it a row of books without visible titles—a human skull set up at one side as a book end and at the other, five shooting stars leapt inexplicably up from the books and into space. Below was the inscription, “We really do want to change the world.” I wondered, at first, if I had missed the joke. If that ‘really’ mocked idealism or if that skull exposed the consequences of its inevitable failure.
That piece has been moved about my house for over two months now and, because it’s mine, there is no longer a joke to get. I did the job that text requires. I produced my meaning which shifts and stirs and won’t sit still. But the eyes of that little skull, the illegible spines of those books, constantly remind me that meanings, like memories, like living, won’t sit still either. They have to be made and remade.
Finally, I think, there is the tricky thing (if you can call it a thing) that is joy. Neel’s works are jostling, confounding even, but they are always also about a certain amount of play—with language, with image, with the wide open space between the viewer and the work viewed. And this means that these works have a certain political potency. There is always subversive power in play, in pleasure, and in joy. Long histories of political art and activism make that more than clear. If nothing else, Neel gives us a little space to play in. That is no small offering.
LOS ANGELES LOYOLAN - "Take a look-see at Looky See," Sept. 11, 2008, 2008
FLAVORPILL.COM - Tucker Neel: Confabulations, Jan. 16, 2008
A calculated flippantness
A lot of gay porn begins with football.
All the crystal meth in the world will never bring you closer.
All those successes are a collage of someone else's broken dreams.
Andrew Jackson was wrong about everything.
As a small boy he faced constant humiliation
Fame is the best form of suicide
Fashion is our master narrative.
Fetish objects say enough
I believe that children are a suture
Life is a play and we are all stagehands.
Los Angeles is an angry, drunk Prom Queen on too much cocaine.
Love your country like you love yourself.
Monument for a humble America (this is a waterslide!)
Some fashion is always in style
Sometimes the silence is good enough.
Success is often masked as failure
Tell me I'm pretty and any orifice of mine is yours.
The greatest loves are a form of necrophillia
The hills are alive with the sounds of chainsaws.
The most beautiful boy in the world
The most beautiful solution
The pilgrims should've starved to death.
The sky is the nearest exit.
There are too many ways to die poor in this city.
This democracy is a clusterfuck.
We all need a little psychotherapy every now and then.
Yoko Ono was a fucking genius
You dream the dreams of kings.
You live in LA you get what you deserve
Your dreams are dripping with the bodies of others.
Railroad tracks are fences
Beautiful things always attract bees and flies and other little flying things.
Christmas cheer is a lie...like New Zealand.
Funny thing old age, it makes you so much wiser but so much more smelly
His shadow was the only dark thing about him.
History has a very real present.
History is a scar. Politics is makeup.
I cant pay attention when you do that.
I have no clue how to take your types of compliments.
I miss my fairy godmother very much
I will will you back to me.
I'm not directionless. I'm direction free.
If it all goes poorly you can blame it all on Satan.
Im taking my originality and leaving
It would take a million breaths to say how much I have failed you.
Its a shame when you dont get what you want.
Mother earth has cancer and she's pissed.
Never follow a leader into the jungle.
Never look over your shoulder in the mirror. Never.
Personal expression has gotten out of control.
Stop making these things. Please.
The Messiah loves everyone at first.
The bottom of the bathtub is the opposite of the bottom of the grave.
The internet has stolen all of my friend making them unrecognizable
The longer we fight the more we win.
The most important thing to have is a warm winter coat.
These boots weren't made for talkin'
Waiting is the best part.
What made me most scared was not that she had more tools than a swiss army knife, but that she was a picasso rip off.
When bad picasso happens to good people
When you really love someone you have to give them the keys to your house and that sucks.
Without a touchstone there would be no real gold.
Yeah that was a little number
You can help it. Trust me.
You can never escape your jeans
You carry your parents with you.
You create the most beautiful negative space.
a hole is a hole is a hole is a hole is a hole.
if only we could use language to generate energy.
Our mobility threatens your past, present and future.
4th of July... multitasking
All my friends are getting married
Cummon big boy! Let's wrasle!
I don't care what you say. When you go bald you become evil.
I'm so glad you live in New York.
If you have no legs to stand on you can fly.
My first cat's name was Midnight.
Nerds Make Fabulous Books
Our memories have gotten out of hand
Russians are smarter than us.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The corner of my eyes always have men holding hands.
The future will always catch up to you one way or another.
The future will be fabulous.
These ideas don't just come from anywhere.
This hair was made for walkin'
This is meant to please you
This is the violence we've been waiting for.
This sort of thing is soo good for you
Try not to split yourself in two.
We are still paying for those horrible promises
What I have is what I want
What this world really needs is more cults.
When you stop thinking beautiful things happen.
You don't want to dig up the past
You should try to do everything for yourself.
You succeed quite well at being ferociously afraid of the simplest forms of human interaction.
your new best friend is lost in the confusin of the future
Although it's the most dangerous month, December always has its charms.
An angel blown backwards into the future.
Days go by so slowly but math becomes easier.
Everything is well thought-out and backed by extensive research.
Finally, I'm done packing all of our belongings.
He said, "graphic designers dont like widows or orphans." and I thought he meant something so very different.
I believe that it's always yesterday somewhere.
I think that if I woke up tomorrow and had absolute total memory loss it would probably be so liberating that I would finally sell my car and kiss that boy I've been meaning to kiss.
If you are going to have children train them to become lucid dreamers.
More power to me...I men you. I meant to say you.
Save for true love, it appears we are always searching fro our own madeline.
Should guilt come so readily when the gifts I give continue to be synthetic?
Waking up every morning as the same body but a different person is disatisfying consistancy.
We like our cars like we like our paintings.
Without the wrinkles on your face I won't be able to recognize you.
each day out of school is an hour underwater.
All gym teachers are gay.
Fumbling around in the dark.
Good job Mr. Fearless leader.
I don’t know what it is but it sure as hell is expensive.
I'm really not into casual sex.
If you’re small enough you can get away with anything.
It will be terrifying to conquer the sea.
Ok., on the count of 3, 1, 2,…
Only part of you is transparent.
Only two or three beers separate Pro Wrestling from Gay Porn
Our favorite personalities are our worst enemy.
Thanks for everything but all I really want is what's inside you.
The auctioneer is the man who proclaims with a hammer that he has picked your pocket with his tongue.
There are really only twenty fashion designers.
We are drifting to a dangerous meeting place.
When he left all he left were the things he had left over.
Whether we like it or not we're in this together.
A condition where if you stop talking you forget your entire history.
Absolutely the worst thing in the world is being sober and alone in a gay bar on Saturday night.
All I really wanna do is build an exact replica of the Washington Monument and put it right next to the original.
All I want is for you to ignore that wonderful girl and pay attention to me.
All she’s missing is a chalkboard and some power.
Always take your target audience into account.
An attractive man, back from distant lands, I can see his shiny hat peeking at me form inside the backpack.
As long as mom thinks it looks good.
Ask not who you country can fuck over for you but who you can fuck over for your country.
Beware of the aggressive comfort demon.
Big thick black glasses are the new superhero masks.
Break out of the marginal space as quick as you can.
Can you remember when you were very very little?
Dead people have more fun.
Dressing my future with my memories.
Dude, originality is an anachronism.
Embrace the erotics of censorship
Escapeism is a real thing.
Even a mutant pig can appreciate a Da Vinci.
Everything is predictably evil.
God gave you your body for a very good reason.
He was forgiven into submission
He’s interested in being interested.
His life is a never ending series of first time awakenings like being born every second.
I am a psychiatrist and I was born in 1969.
I am terrified of the day I will no longer recognize you and you will need me more than ever.
I could spend my entire life looking out the window of an airplane.
I just can't help myself.
I never much like the idea of England.
I paid for this adventure and I deserve everything that’s coming to me.
I pray for strategically placed tornados.
I resolve to eat more cake and drink more whiskey.
I spoke 1987 aloud. It took about an hour.
I wonder if I should hang out with more writers.
I would pay good money to rid of this perfection.
I wouldn’t fuck you even if you were alive.
I'm glad to have forgotten.
I'm not a very good character witness
If I stopped using the word “was”, would I be any bit happier?
If you are in on this team you have to recruit.
If you kiss grandma goodbye you won’t miss her so much.
In nature males have to look fabulous.
In the 18th Century I was invisible.
Interpretation always fails.
It won’t make a difference if I tell you that the thoughts of our times together are lungs made of small brown paper bags.
It's best to leave this to the professionals.
Its hard to do this sort of work.
Its not the real thing that worries me, it’s the imaginations it will produce.
It’s sad but I don’t think we’re ever going to see full transparency.
Just do whatever he says.
Just waisting time until carnival.
Make me forget where you left me?
May 20, we met after winter. And she never forgot the Louisiana Liplock.
More distrustful than ever.
Mostly I just close my eyes.
My choice in men means I get to pick from a very wealthy litter.
My favorite cologne is the smell of your saliva drying on my skin.
My first lover once played my subordinate in a musical.
My job is to make things a little more memorable.
My life: a guided tour through antiquity
My past, present and future.
My pig can tell the future.
No matter how tall we make it it will still fall one day.
People come here to have sex and I live right around the corner.
Pleasure comes before pain.
Safe sex is very important.
School can only get you so far.
She keeps saying things are nice and warm and she has no idea what that means.
Someone is always operating behind the scenes.
Someone take my soul but leave me my lust.
Success is everywhere these days.
Summer in Southern California.
Thanksgiving without you. It was clean.
The best camoflague is a vaccuous mind.
The best way to solve this problem we're in is to have casual sex with our enemy.
The future will be our dreams realized on a suprising scale.
The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another's treasure.
The time for exploration has ended.
Their safety is dangerous.
There is no more room to build.
There will come a time when we have to burn our ancestors for fuel.
There’s a mild comfort to expelling your beliefs.
They still use DDT in South America don’t they?
This, our age of opulence, is destined to end poorly.
Uncomfortably alone, I wait for my future to come in the mail.
Watching one’s back is a full time occupation.
We all wear hats. Mine is just better than yours.
What to wear to Miami this time of year?
When I was born my dad was convinced I would grow up to be a great wide receiver.
Wolfboy has many admirers but few lovers.
You really do think some talismanic magic will solve all of our problems.
im concerned about your soul.
we live for that moment of fantastic catastrophe.
you make it all like seventh grade all over again.
Always arriving. Never arrived.
Bleach does not add character.
Broken and perfect and burned to the ground.
Gather your best attributes.
He sees double, walks with a cane and can’t hear out of his left hear.
He’s not from around here so don’t worry.
Homophobes deserve champagne.
I couldn’t be more proud.
I think I’ll show up with poop all over my face.
In this profession we sublimate our desire by hiring really attractive assistants.
It’s better to throw parties than go to school.
I’m interested in why you keep making these things.
I’m thinking the people involved should be me.
Our friendship cannot be seen in the light of day.
Overdressed and overpaid.
Plastic surgery involves lots of recovery.
Rain in L.A. is a broken promise.
Remember Andy Warhol’s first show was a flop.
The Nazis really loved a specific type of beauty.
The best thing about living here is all the choices.
The children have taken control of the alcohol and the music.
The infinite is actually very, surprisingly, small.
The only thing blue about him are his eyes and his cargo pants.
The transition from bad to worse.
The wrestler’s ear and the coach’s whistle.
Twenty year old white boys with feathered hair should not sing the blues.
We are all headed for a supurb disaster.
We can’t destroy paradise but paradise can destroy us.
What are we gonna do without the freeways?
Why darling, you are my darling. Today is an excellent day for the doing of things
Without the muzzle he’s a real asshole.
You could ask him but, ya know.
All my friends are artists
Almost every day I wake up not knowing who I am.
As I get older I have less and less time for my enemies
At night flying over this country citys are islands floating in a sea of nothing.
Comedy is a last-ditch effort. Fer serious.
Contrary to National trends the jocks from my high school are rich and planning expensive families.
Draw me a map from here to my house.
Excuse me but there is in fact humor in every emergency.
He’s in boarding group A on the plane to Hell. Did I say Hell? I meant Orlando.
He’s too much of an asshole to be gay.
I REALLY DON’T WANT TO GO TO MY HIGH SCHOOL REUNION.
I always wait for turbulance.
I finally have you right where I want to finally have you.
I really wish the space you left behind was larger, more permanent.
I think we were six or seven when our parents gave us little versions of ourselves.
I think your fraternity would like me.
I used to listen to a lot of metal.
I was obsessed with orphans.
If you were in my neighborhood you would stand out too.
In memory of Andy Warhol, America’s first Homosexual President.
In this city it’s best to chase the Sun.
It’s hard to find young kids like this today.
It’s someone else’s mistakes, written in the language of the ancients.
It’s the same but I’m feeling more comfortable.
I’m devoting too much time to divining just what I should do.
Jesus Christ Jimmy Buffett I hate you so fucking much. So fucking much.
Lazy days like this mean calling Mon then surfing the internet for porn.
Middle Tennessee is more than just fun to spell.
My Elementary School experience was complicated.
My neighborhood is filled with perfect people.
My new best friends and lovers play in a basement.
My people come from the South and there’s nothing I can do about that.
New York is breaking and entering.
Now we don’t even have to scare you anymore.
Otterpops and the aftertaste of Nightshade.
She thought she was a bird until she was seven.
Sixteen, for me, was Slurpees and cigarettes
Thank god Dylan never got old.
There are all so pretty, so caramel and peroxide.
There are no worse things than a burt-out sparkler and an injured husband.
There is Modernity; and then there’s California.
These are off limits: Iraq Vermont China The North Pole and West Hollywood.
This dining hall reminds me of a church I had to attend once.
This meal’s gonna cost more than my car.
This rugged masculinity, it’s very expensive.
This way our mistakes will stay with us forever.
Today the sky was clear and it was warm and the Insurance company didn’t call.
Washington D.C. is your father’s underwear drawer.
We are always with the band.
We come from The South and I guess that’s sorta ok.
We should keep this travesty alive forever.
When I sleep my house floats above the ground, but only two inches.
When dame comes, and it will, it’s best to be prepared with the right provisions.
When my parents die I’ll have to sell so much.
You can campaign against anything.
Your childhood nostalgia is overwhelming