Shawn Huckins was not inspired by the likes of Van Gogh, Monet, or DaVinci. As a young boy in the second grade, Huckins found inspiration in someone who he affectionately refers to as the ‘Big Kid.’ Observing the ‘Big Kid’ and his drawing talents during a school bus ride home, the two eventually became acquaintances and Huckins took to creating his own sketches. Now a painter, Huckins’ introduction to painting came in the form of a family loss when his grandmother passed away a year later and inherited her slightly used oil painting set.
Unfortunately, Huckins’ love affair with painting did not last long. As the medium was not quite what he was used to, he became increasingly frustrated, and stepped away from painting altogether until his college years. After a little globetrotting and some brief stints as a film major, an architect major, and then as a graphic designer, Huckins found his way back to the medium that he now skillfully manipulates.
Now settled in a creative niche that he could call home, Huckins went onto create his most notable series to date, The American Revolution Revolution and The American __tier.
The American Revolution Revolution features a layering of early American portraiture and social media jargon. Melding the political revolution of 18th century with the technological revolution of the 21st century, Huckins explores where the two meet. In the process of comparing time periods, Huckins also used The American Revolution Revolution to confront the priorities of a dumbed down society.
Huckins’ work is not digitally generated nor are they Photoshopped. Huckins painted each piece by hand, including the lettering. He continues his onslaught of social media based satire with his follow up series, The American __tier. Again marrying the prestige of fine art with the casual grammatical uncouthness of social media, Huckins flaunts an individual brand of artistic humor – not mention a great amount of skill and technique.
– Akeem K. Duncan
Robert Hine and John Mack Faragher define the American Frontier as “a tale of conquest, but also one of survival, persistence, and the merging of peoples and cultures that gave birth and continuing life to America.”1
With the recent additions of pop culture slang words, such as ‘twerk’ and ‘selfie,’ to the Oxford Dictionary, was this the vision our early ancestors and frontier explorers had in mind as we continue the ‘conquest?’
The American __tier series explores 19th century American painting and photography in context of 21st century lexicons – Facebook status updates, tweets, texting acronyms – that permeate today’s popular culture. The process is a methodical replication of the original work, each painted by hand followed by the superimposition of large white letters, also painted, of social media jargon.
The frontier was conceived through an exchange of a few well-formed ideas communicated in person and by handwritten letters. Imagine what Lewis & Clark could have done with the internet while exploring the American west.
Technology influences how much we know and what we believe, as well as how quickly and intelligently we convey our ideas. But does how we communicate govern the value of what we communicate? The physical act of typing very fast on small devices has undeniably impacted spelling, grammar and punctuation, encouraging a degree of illiteracy that has become the new social norm. As goes our grammatical literacy, do our social and cultural literacies follow? Are we in a continuing state of the debasement of language?
But who are we to say that ‘twerk’ and ‘selfie’ are not valid forms of communication? These additions do not signify the death of the English language, but rather as a growing and evolving method of communication which changes as does our world. However, one may argue that technology and youth associated slang isolates us more, not less, and it is easy to idealize centuries-past life as a simpler, more civil, more intelligent, and ironically, more ‘connected.’ Families exploring the West would go weeks, months, or even years without instantaneous communication, while a text going from Denver to New York takes approximately a few seconds. Those century old methods of communication, intelligently and clearly, exhibit passion, courage, and connection, while today’s digital speak gives only a glimpse into the human psyche.
In any event, we live in a very different time than our Explorers did and we would appear to place our priorities in very different places: what entertains our selves versus what serves our society.
If Lewis & Clark could comment today, would they click the ‘like’ button, or post ‘wtf?’ and then go check their Miley Cyrus tweet?
“Everything Is Hilarious And Nothing Is Real”
A solo exhibition featuring new paintings from Denver artist, Shawn Huckins.
685 Market Street, Set 290
San Francisco, CA 94105
May 5th, 2016 – June 25th, 2016.
Opening reception, Thursday, May 5th, from 530-8PM.