WYATT MILLS & CHARLES SWENSON
TWO HEADS ON FIRE
Coagula Curatorial is excited to announce its upcoming exhibition Two Heads on Fire, a series of 12 new collaborative paintings between Los Angeles-based artists Wyatt Mills and Charles Swenson.
Born from their meeting during a show, and with nearly five decades between them, Mills and Swenson have created a series that spans time, conflict, and technique.
Two Heads on Fire is an exploration of concepts and technique; how to bring the physical and emotional scars of trauma and everyday life to light through painting. The series of twelve paintings makes it brutally apparent how time affects each and every one of us, marking us with invisible and visible scars; taking what we carry and turning it into something comprehensible, relatable.
Swenson began his paintings of soldiers nearly ten years ago, inspired in part by a childhood experience - he had used stolen money from his mother's purse to buy toy soldiers, but things went awry when a neighborhood bully took them from him. He was now caught between a bully and a hard-handed mother; he couldn't fight and win, nor could he cry to mom. What he took away from this was to be stoic and private, an early lesson on the rocky road to manhood. About ten years ago Swenson purchased a set of toy soldiers from the WWII era on a whim and photographed them. Viewed through a macro lens, he realized each toy was a handmade sculpture, each unique and individual, having endured six decades of wear and tear, highlighting features that resonated with him - each looked battered and worn, but stoic and private.
After meeting Wyatt Mills during a live painting session during an exhibition they both were a part of, Swenson handed Mills a brush and invited him to add to what he had been working on. A partnership ensued with the pair exchanging paintings; Mills began one, Swenson began one, and they collaborated using their individual styles and concepts to add to and expand upon each of the 12 paintings shown in Two Heads on Fire. While Swenson directly explores the visible scars that each soldier or subject carries, Mills adds the mental scars that are subjective and universally relatable. The "bad" parts of life that we don’t talk about are brought to light, capturing a fleeting memory while also speaking to a collective consciousness in regards to state-and world-wide conflict. Swenson has taken this opportunity to further explore what heroism and masculinity mean in our contemporary world - carrying a bravado, a stoic disposition, and laden with mental scars coming home from war.
Despite their five decades difference in age, both Mills and Swenson use painting as a way to explore not only themselves, but the contemporary struggle of masculinity, anxiety, and heroism, and how they all coincide with each other to create a catalyst for further investigation. Although these paintings focus on soldiers, each viewer brings their subjective experiences to the table. Each painting is a window to the past, present, and future, bringing to light our scars and conflicts regardless of our situations. An homage to the veterans who have facilitated the ideology surrounding the free world, Two Heads on Fire takes us into a new realm in which every viewer has the opportunity to contribute to a new collective consciousness in which we recognize and confront our "shortcomings".
Two Heads on Fire will be on view November 5 through November 21, 2016 with an opening reception Saturday, November 5 from 7-11pm.