Jason Cytacki Small Vistas, Big Myths

Exhibition Dates:

Cytacki: Colorado

September 27, 2014 – January 4, 2015 | Art League Gallery
Artist Talk: Sunday, December 7, 2:30 p.m.

Read the review in the South Bend Tribune.

Jason Cytacki’s work focuses a critical eye on the much-romanticized period of the American Frontier and its continued place in the popular imagination. Epic western landscapes of the 19th century fed audiences’ desires for hope of an American Utopia, just as the heroic cowboys riding in to the sunset from 1950s cinema lured a new audience into longing for a simpler time. While inaccurate and inflated, these iconic images have become deeply entwined with the American perception of self.

Cytacki: Bear LakeFrom the artist’s statement:

“My interest lies in the tension between western art’s representation as both myth and reality, reflected in its often-ambiguous relationship with authenticity. By striving to both affirm and subvert our belief in these larger than life constructs I hope to redraw the mythic contours of our national identity to accommodate a more complete, truthful and tragic portrait.

…For portrait pieces I appropriate nostalgic images of cowboys from old western movies, and transform them through divergent painting techniques. Dripping expressionistic brushwork becomes tight detailed passages, which in turn dissolve back into loose, abstracted marks; in this way, the images of these iconic figures are simultaneously elevated and destroyed. Through this process, I suggest the mythic as well as tragic, fragile nature of these seemingly invincible heroes. Beneath the surface of these portraits lay doubt, remorse, and vulnerability, exposing the cowboy as an imperfect symbol for an imperfect time.

With landscape pieces, I aim to subtly subvert the traditional realism of the genre by emphasizing the artificiality of the constructed image. These paintings are derived from miniature dioramas made mostly of cardboard, which I have created and assembled to depict scenes directly referencing the utopian imagery of traditional western landscapes. By meticulously rendering the minute details of these cardboard assemblies with oil paint, I highlight the fabricated nature of these culturally constructed images. This body of work stems from my interest in the tension between western art’s representation as both myth and reality, reflected in its often-ambiguous relationship with authenticity.”

Jason Cytacki is an Assistant Professor of Painting at the University of Oklahoma. Jason earned MFA from the University of Notre Dame in 2011, and now lives and works in Norman, Oklahoma. His paintings examine the American character and its construction through history, popular culture and mythology. Utilizing characters and images drawn from popular culture, he explores the way Americans view themselves and their country.

His recent work has dealt extensively with exploring Frontier mythology, in particular its continued importance in the popular imagination. He has been exhibited regularly and is represented in a variety of collections.

Images: above: Weminuche, 2013, Oil on panel, 36 x 48 inches; below: Bear Lake, 2013, Oil on panel, 24 x 18 inches

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