...that allows the viewer to assume the spectator position and peer into their life from a distance, as one would watch a game safely from the stands.
The Contemporary Art Modern Project is pleased to present Spectator Sport, a two person exhibition featuring the figurative works of Greek artist Rania Rangou and American artist Augustine Chavez that aims to highlight the voyeurism that exists between classes. As with a sport, living in the world today requires hard work, collaboration, endurance, and strategy. This is the reality for those of us who have not yet found ourselves in positions where survival isn’t a constant concern; this is the reality of the working class, of the players. There also exists, simultaneously, a reality where there is no pressing need to endure, no reason to strategize, and this allows for the luxury of observing; this is the reality of the upper class, of the spectators. The works of Chavez and Rangou speak to these opposing realities respectively, and when put in conversation with each other bring forth a clear dynamic of who is watching and who is being watched in the game of life.
The figures in Rania Rangou’s work are never presently engaged in anything, yet, as spectators would, they always have a point of focus. In A Place I Call Island and Surpice we see her figures either looking at the viewer or off into the distance, both instances revealing how their realites allow them space to contemplate and observe. Rangou’s figures also often exist alone on the canvas, with their formal dress and well groomed hair being the only details that help to communicate a sense of shared identity, an identity that in fact can be characterized by this separateness. Even in her piece A Rumour of Wild, where the figures are presented in a group, no sense of unity can be felt. It is as though each person has their own agenda, causing their dispute. As a whole, Rangou’s figures embody an individualism in thought and cause that is common amongst the elite, a stark contrast to the social schema of their working class counterparts, which consequently creates the perfect environment for a voyeur.
Augustine Chavez in no way romanticizes the life of the working class. There is a visual grittiness to his paintings that not only speaks to the laborious scenes his works often feature, but to the spirit of the working class as a whole. It is Chavez’ candor that allows the viewer to assume the spectator position and observe the workers life from a distance. In his piece System of Workers, we see a group working together, strategizing, and very much resembling a team on the field. Not one figure’s face or eyes are revealed, similarly to the figures in Hooked on Rebar and Social Divide. The worker’s are too busy in the throes of “the game,” working to survive, to be concerned with anything else. Even in works where the figure's eyes can be seen, for example in I Build America, the eyes are not looking at the viewer; in fact it’s apparent that they are avoiding contact. The worker is aware that someone is watching, but we can get the sense that he feels that this is the way it should be, that being surveilled is expected.
In Chavez’ Social Divide we see the well groomed, formally dressed figures we were acquainted with in Rangou’s pieces appear as passing spectators to the once again faceless worker who is too preoccupied for anything else. This moment, though fleeting, is the crux of the relationship between the working and upper classes. Though existing in the same space, and in this piece on the same canvas, their worlds could not be further apart and this distance is welcomed. Whether aware of it or not, the workers’ contrasting reality provides a moment of distraction and escape for the rest of us, much as we get from a spectator sport.