According to curator Janet Kopolos, “the most interesting use of the U.S. map shape,” in Randy Shull’s new body of work “is that it’s a void.” A void is usually seen negatively as a loss or lack of something. Perhaps Shull is critiquing the United States’ substance or lack thereof. Perhaps Shull is questioning the United States’ values. Or perhaps he is commenting, consciously or not, on the flow of American ideas, information and pop culture out of the U.S., since the lines in Shull’s map pieces created from the spin process often move from the map outward.
Kopolos takes this supposition of meaning one step further suggesting the projecting edging around the U.S. Map shape may signify a fence, and then the meaning of these works becomes as much about what is moving out of the U.S. as what is being kept out. Importantly, this void in the shape of the U.S. is ambiguous, allowing the viewer to fill it with their own meanings and bring their “American” values and references to bear. One thing is definite: Shull’s U.S.-shaped void spurs dialogue about what the U.S. is and what it should be.
Randy Shull’s works appear in the McColl Center for Visual Art’s (a Knight’s Arts grantee) latest exhibition, “Channeling the U.S.A.” Curated by Janet Kopolos, the exhibition runs through January 12, 2013. “Channeling the U.S.A.” features Shull’s enigmatic work that blends art and craft. Shull is a North Carolina artist with a studio in Asheville.
While Shull’s U.S. voids are intriguing, not all of his U.S. map shapes are voids. Some are filled with paint, with wood, and or with pieces and parts of people. “Land of Lincoln,” the first piece Shull did in the exploration of this shape, was a spontaneous workshop creation. With acrylic paint and a carved wood panel Shull illuminated the U.S. shape in neon yellow. Against a black plane the neon outline pulses and is made more energetic by the swirling red and brown lines undulating inside the outline. The color choices are dark and ominous almost as foreboding as the splashed paint dripping down from the top of the canvas. One cannot help but to imagine the violence and turbulence of the Civil War after noticing the title of the piece. After all, this is the “land” Lincoln preserved under one unified nation through blood and death.
The McColl Center for Visual Art: 721 N. Tryon St., Charlotte; 704-332-5535; www.mccollcenter.org. Open to the public Thursday and Friday, 2-7 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; and by appointment.