Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art reopens after its brief summer vacation to present a show about just that – the idea of getting away. In the exhibit entitled “Dropouts,” artist Dan Schank explores the contemporary ideas of escapism, travel and the search for utopia through the vessel of the cruise ship industry.
Schank’s paintings are mostly composed of cut paper collages, gouache and pencil, and there is generally a clear distinction between his structures and the rest of the environment. Components of cruise ship hulls, ladders, towers and less recognizable parts float and slosh in paisley-patterned water on his canvases, sometimes nearly lost in the chaos.
The artist speaks of Knut Kloster, co-founder of Norwegian Cruise lines, as the impetus for his compositions. Heir to a shipping fortune and a product of ’60s era hippie idealism, Kloster began the contemporary cruise ship vacation as a way to emulate the hedonistic communes sought by many in his free love generation. But how much of this temporarily “dropping out” of society is truly in line with these aspirations?
Scenes of sinking ships and uninhabited lounge chairs ache of dystopia and an industry based in the delusion of exploration. No longer do flower children navigate inner and outer space in search of liberation. Now they dig deeply into their wallets for a never-ending supply of libation.
Extreme individualism and romance are the topics that Schank wishes to confront. Modern libertarianism and the retreat from society have recently come back into style, but to what degree are these notions unobtainable? Has the majesty of nature been completely polluted by the synthetic and the disposable? Is the race for capital a dead end, and if so, what becomes of all that we’ve created?
With a lack of frontiers, ambition for the new has in many ways been reduced to flotillas of bourgeoisie pleasure. Instead of climbing Everest or traversing the solar system, people have been reduced to concocting Guinness World Records just to break them. With Manifest Destiny dead in the water, adventure has become a sterile parody of itself. In the face of all of this, many polarize themselves by engaging in the ancient but all-too-human fantasy of apocalyptic end times. With the end of 2012 in sight, droves of conspiracy theorists grapple with the Mayan calendar despite the evidence that past generations were consistently wrong in their Armageddon predictions.
Surely most of us enjoy unwinding and escaping from time to time, but at what cost? There must surely be a happy medium to the pursuit of happiness. Dan Schank’s patterns and architectural forms are by no means entirely foreboding. They are enticing and playful too. His artwork is by no means completely cynical. His narratives are unpopulated and ours to write. Schank merely asks the tough questions. Perhaps our frontier is confronting them.
Rebekah Templeton Contemporary Art is located at 173 W. Girard Ave., Philadelphia; email@example.com; rebekahtempleton.com.