Confabulations: Drawings by Tucker Neel at Commissary Arts

Confabulations: Drawings by Tucker Neel
Commissary Arts
68 North Venice Boulevard
Venice, CA 90291
United States

Dates: January 19, 2008 to March 1, 2008
Artist Reception: Saturday, January 19, 2008, 5-8pm
Gallery hours are Thursday & Friday 12-5pm, Saturday 12-6pm, and by appointment.
For additional information or to request visual material,
please contact the gallery at (310) 990-9914, or email
To view works in the show visit

The future will be fabulous

The future will be fabulous

Press Release: Commissary Arts is pleased to announce
Confabulations, a solo show by Los Angeles based
artist Tucker Neel. Fascinated by the ways people
attempt to capture memory in a material form, Neel
uses his polymorphous practice to investigate
overlooked and unintentional monuments and memorials
to better understand how people mark and archive both
personal and collective experience. For this
exhibition, Neel presents hundreds of subjective
drawings executed in the past year. At first created
inadvertently as a way to pass time, the work reflects
the transitory, imperfect and befuddling nature of
personal memory.

Each 8 ½ x 5 ½ inch drawing contains an image and a
text that relate to each other if only tenuously.
Populated by bandaged aristocrats, frustrated
debutantes, overdressed crocodiles, and a steady
stream of countless unexpected figures, Neel’s
drawings appear fresh, playful and spontaneous. When
accompanied by humorous, prescient, bawdy and
sometimes downright disturbing texts, his drawings
take on new meaning, become stories, placards, and
signposts for passing thoughts, observations or
quotations. At times, the resulting compositions are
direct and easy to understand and sometimes they are
quizzical, even impenetrable.

With each passing day the exhibition will change as
the works shuffle and move around the gallery;
drawings leave the walls upon purchase only to be
replaced by a seemingly endless stream of even more
works. Viewing and re-encountering these drawings
throughout the run of the exhibition is sure to
delight, amuse and captivate each visitor. For more
information and to see more works by the artist please

The exhibition runs from January 19, 2008 to March 1,
2008. There will be a reception for the artist on
Saturday, January 19, 2008 from 5 to 8pm. Commissary
Arts is a new gallery space in Venice presenting work
by emerging and mid-career contemporary artists based
in Southern California through a mix of solo and group

The gallery is located at 68 N. Venice Boulevard,
Venice, CA 90291. Gallery hours are Thursday & Friday
12-5pm, Saturday 12-6pm, and by appointment. For
additional information or to request visual material,
please contact the gallery at (310) 990-9914, or email

Catalog essay by Allison Schifani.

Words are tricky things. If you can call them things. We tend to experience them, read them, think them, not in their ‘thingness’, not in themselves, but always as something else. They refer, describe, title or they fail to do so. And even as words fail, they hint at their impossible references, descriptions, titles. They invite those viewers to whom they are offered, those listeners who are able to hear them, to remake them, re-imagine them, and thus to produce them.

The collection of Tucker Neel’s works presented here get at the slippery non-thingness of language and at its effects on us. His works here offer us text paired with images to which we might suitably assume that text refers. But it is in the jarring gap between the two–the image and the text–that these artworks expose their own power.

We, as viewers, are left grasping at the text and the picture, trying to decipher, trying impossibly to force the text to make sense of the image or the image to make sense of the text. It is in this gap, revealed so cleverly, so sincerely (or perhaps so sarcastically?) by these works that we begin crack open the broader trouble at hand: the subjective experience and the voice of the subject. How precariously these two facets of the social world are linked and how ephemeral, how threatening, how bizarre and uncanny is our experience of this tenuous link.

The Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure filled pages of his works (posthumously collected and formed by his students in a Course in General Linguistics) with diagrams–with pictures, trying to show a line between the sound-image (a word, spoken or written) and the concept (the thing itself, supposedly outside of language but to which it refers) to which this sound-image was to get at. What he missed, and what many thinkers have worked to explore, is that the lines he drew and redrew between a word and the concept to which it was connected was just what Neel’s works seem to get at–its not such an easy line to draw. It’s not a line at all. What lies between signifier and signified is lived experience–bodies, spaces, memories. To get from one side of the diagram to the other is to produce language, a language that communicates something, surely, but invariably something altered by its hearer, by its reader. In getting from the voice to the thing it speaks there are, it turns out, a multiplicity of voices, an infinitude of things.

Images, too, are tricky things. If you can call them things. They, too, are experienced, they are read. And they are always complicated by text. In a country where only the gravest of afflictions and deepest of pains seem immune to ironic mime and sarcasm, it is difficult to tell when–if this was ever possible–someone is saying what they mean. Neel’s works seem to hint at this trouble too because, in the end, we’re not sure we should take him seriously. By pairing the text with the image, playful, sometimes downright goofy images, we are not left just to wonder at the meaning secured somewhere, unreachably, behind the text, behind the images, but also at ourselves, our own skills at reading.

The first work I saw of this collection was given to me at an informal and somewhat raucous art opening in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles. The image was a bookshelf, floating out of context on the white page, atop it a row of books without visible titles–a human skull set up at one side as a book end and at the other, five shooting stars leapt inexplicably up from the books and into space. Below was the inscription, “We really do want to change the world.” I wondered, at first, if I had missed the joke. If that ‘really’ mocked idealism or if that skull exposed the consequences of its inevitable failure.

That piece has been moved about my house for over two months now and, because it’s mine, there is no longer a joke to get. I did the job that text requires. I produced my meaning which shifts and stirs and won’t sit still. But the eyes of that little skull, the illegible spines of those books, constantly remind me that meanings, like memories, like living, won’t sit still either. They have to be made and remade.

Finally, I think, there is the tricky thing (if you can call it a thing) that is joy. Neel’s works are jostling, confounding even, but they are always also about a certain amount of play–with language, with image, with the wide open space between the viewer and the work viewed. And this means that these works have a certain political potency. There is always subversive power in play, in pleasure, and in joy. Long histories of political art and activism make that more than clear. If nothing else, Neel gives us a little space to play in. That is no small offering.


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