Aaron-Spangler

Aaron Spangler

The gallery is pleased to present its first solo show by Minnesota-based artist Aaron Spangler. Entitled Government Whore, the exhibition features a new series of three carved wood bas-relief sculptures painted with black gesso and rubbed with graphite, which has become the artist’s signature. Displayed atop welded steel pedestals, which evoke the optimism of the Industrial Revolution or the utopian notions of Constructivist architecture, the roughly hewn yet detailed scenes reveal a more complicated picture of the rural American landscape. Drawing upon the stories of his friends, the artist considers the all too familiar, yet often overlooked, effect that our multigenerational community of post-combat veteran soldiers have upon the politics, family life, religious life, and even prison life of the countryside.

I spent two years on a foreign shore
Bein’ a government whore
I sold my body, they stole my mind
Tellin’ me, “Boy, now you’re mine.”

– Bruce Brummitt

Bringing to mind Winslow Homer’s “The Veteran In A New Field”, Spangler’s “Government Whore” portrays a shell-shocked war veteran amid the comforts of home, yet still clinging to his SKS rifle while in bed contemplating past sins. Flowers, bundles of sage, a Bowler hat, and a farm house are juxtaposed with a cow skull, animal claws, palm leaves, and an ascending soldier to create a dreamlike sequence of the rivaling environments of Vietnam and the United States.

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man’s made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that’s a-weak and a back that’s strong
You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt”

– Merle Travis

In “I Owe My Soul To The Company Store,” the artist employs the narrative within Merle Travis’ classic coal miner’s tale to encourage free associations between America’s history of debt bondage and military enlistment; emblematic images of corrugated cardboard boxes spill out onto a fallen soldier, whose clinched fist clasps the wooden upright of a farm shed – all to the backdrop of what appears to be a Trojan horse jettisoning out of a wooded hillside.

Your loyalty is not to me
But to the stars above.
One more cup of coffee for the road,
One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go
the valley below.

– Bob Dylan

“The Valley Below” celebrates the peace, beauty, idealism, and magic of the undomesticated life “off the grid”, which has often become the destination of many in the hippie movement following wartime. A prominent Barn Owl, which is known to actively hunt for prey only under the cover of darkness, seems to beckon the viewer back to the land and its groves in search of a simpler way of living.

Aaron Spangler (b. 1971, Minneapolis, MN) lives and works in Park Rapids, MN. He received a BFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Minneapolis, MN. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at Galerie Michael Janssen, Berlin and Zach Feuer Gallery, New York. He has been included in group exhibitions at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL; and the New York Academy of Art, New York. He is in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, Flash Art, among others.