One thing modern American Pop Artists seem to do best is to find new ways of illuminating our cultural shortcomings. From our national religion of consumerism to the establishment’s wielding of power, artists such as Steven Gagnon lift our ostrich heads out of the ground just long enough to consider realities we often choose to overlook. As opposed to Warhol, Lichtenstein and other Contemporary Artists who have alluded to the shortcomings of our society, Gagnon makes no bones about conveying his messages explicitly. If like your “artini” served neat, then you’ll enjoy the way Steven Gagnon pours.
The artist’s works satirizing Shepard Fairey’s 2008 Hope and 2012 Progress are among Gagnon’s lighter and more clever offerings. While Fairey’s historic images featured an inspired Barack Obama, Gagnon’s versions speak to another type of inspiration and result. Prior to consumption, his six pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, the subject of Hope, hold unforeseen promise. Unlike any presidency, the artist’s cans leave little room for debate in their consumed state − as portrayed in Progress.
In a land known for abundance and driven by consumerism, we are inundated and influenced by images and material goods. My goal is to play upon the symbolism of the familiar and subvert it by juxtaposition.
Another Gagnon screenprint, $100 U.S. Flag, marries national identity with highly cherished US currency. Thought the inference is direct, the viewer has many options for interpreting the message. One prevalent perspective is the insinuation of the US being a nation for the privileged, those who have money. Another is that the nation is “for sale” − alluding to the funding of the political machine that places government official into positions of power. For the younger generations in American society, the hundred dollar bill is synonymous with a hip hop reference that first gained mainstream popularity in the 1997 hit song, “It’s All About the Benjamins” – referring to Benjamin Franklin, whose face graces the front of the bill.
For Steven Gagnon, American currency is a predominant recurring symbol and the $100 bill is clearly his denomination of choice. His 2010 screenprint, Money Laundering, touches on a brilliant sense of humor about an unethical practice. The word “Bribe” substitutes for Tide, America’s most popular name brand laundry detergent. Tying money to the performance of this illicit service produces the desired emotional charge that comes from an association of money with power.
Steven Gagnon’s New World Order takes the theme of money and power to an even harder-hitting emotional level. Using toy soldiers to comprise the iconic symbol known as The Eye of Providence, or the All-seeing Eye of God − familiar to us because it’s prominently displayed on the back of the one dollar bill. In this piece, the artist’s combination of many small soldiers comprising the government’s currency strikes the viewer viscerally, drawing unfortunate conclusions about the “prize” for which US Military personnel are asked to fight.
One Steven Gagnon work with nostalgic Pop appeal − the Esso Oil Can − is a work that draws quite a few comments from visitors to our Boca Raton gallery. Most of us over the age of 45 recall the Esso brand that preexisted Exxon, so there’s of course that part of the conversation. Undeniably, there are a variety of evocative concepts related to the juxtaposition of oil and US currency. Additionally, the red, white and blue can feels like a representation of America itself, as opposed to for-profit business it is.
If you’re a Steven Gagnon collector, visit with us to see our current collection of limited signed editions; and contact us if we can be of assistance to help you acquire any work that you seek.