The Bluffs by Joseph Leroux

GRIN • Providence, RI • • Through July 18, 2015

By: Alexander Castro

JoeLeroux TheBloomsMegaphone
Joseph Leroux Bloom, Megaphone, 2013, 20 x 26 x 18″.

Joseph Leroux fears he might be stuck in the ’90s. A musical diet of Sonic Youth, Nirvana and R.E.M feeds his process. Nourished by the angst of decades past, the Philadelphia-based artist prefers a direct experience of energy to thick, theory-saturated art.

“I was a big fan of the work where you had to read the artist’s statement,” Leroux says. Now, he’s “over it,” tunneling away from his academic training and former teaching career, in this new show at GRIN.

The Bluffs
presents nostalgia without sentiment, as Leroux asks, “What would happen if I existed in other times or spaces than I do now?” Appropriated photos purchased in his homeland of upstate New York assist in Leroux’s search. Digital manipulation, high-contrast monochrome canvas, airbrushed spray paint and crosshatched lines of Prismacolor make these recycled histories resemble ancient holograms. Line and tone slice through gauzy shadows, reinterpreting rhythm, beat and time as color, texture and dimensionality.

Mixing and matching different bodies of work is uncommon for Leroux, but The Bluffs features his adventures in two- and three-dimension. Leroux’s belief that “we should be able to get behind ideas quickly” led to the “meticulous” constellation of quilting pins into two skeletal sculptures. Where’s the megaphone, Leroux wonders, in the recent reemergence of civil protest. Mimicking the visual shape of a social network and the figure of a bullhorn, Leroux’s Megaphone is an amplifier for revolutionary voices.

Sound is both metaphor and procedure for Leroux. He attempts to “translate” the ecstatic elements of music into visuals, seeking “to give people [the] same sense of euphoria” found at concerts. Leroux says he’s part of a “building contingency of artists who are trying to use mystery, or the unpredictable nature of…life” in their practice, a philosophy he describes as “anti-American-Idol-culture.” The Bluffs is an enigma, clothed in the unknowns and uncertainties of a fast-approaching dusk. Against pop cultural tsunamis of insipid lifelessness, Leroux takes the advice of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon: “It is fun to smash guitars.” So be very loud, be very noisy. The shattered idol brings forth grating, gorgeous music.

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