This post was written by student Daniel King.
Although not often associated with one another, the work of Camille Rose Garcia and Raymond Gloeckler both question the fantasies and foibles of humanity. Garcia, a “lowbrow” artist inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tales and Disney movies, is typically connected to the Pop Surrealism movement. Gloeckler is a printmaker who gives animals anthropomorphic qualities to comment on human corruption and humanity’s many flaws. The two artists use different levels of abstraction within their shared surrealism, even as both explore the wide range of human flaws.
Garcia is inspired by the fantasies dominant in American culture, but she reinterprets them, undermining their naivete in order to suggest that society tells itself these fantasies to hide the fact that the world is corrupt and despairing. Some of her work, like The White Swan Deluge, is a social commentary on the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004. Although it’s referring to real-world events, Garcia’s psychedelic color palette gives the image a surreal vibe. Her figures offer symbolic responses to the devastation: many of the characters’ eyes are closed, which the artist asserts represents their use of sleep and dreams to conjure escapes from the situation. In other words, the closed eyes may be her symbol for the tsunami survivors’ dream of a better life. Their hopelessness, in combination with the childlike palette, invites viewers to discover the grim realities waiting outside their fantasy worlds.
Gloeckler, like Garcia, comments on the foibles of humanity in a surreal way. In contrast to Garcia, his work is a woodblock print and is devoid of color. Therefore, his work relies solely on the abstraction of the human and animal represented. Gloeckler’s work is not as cartoon-like as Garcia’s; it resembles political cartooning more than Disney, and is similar to political cartoons in tone thanks to its negative depiction of authority figures. However, his work is much more abstract than typical political cartoons. His print, Bugs and Boars, Pigs and Pests, the Red Baron and the Mighty Batman (1988), seems directly to criticize Richard Nixon’s political ideas. In Nixon’s era, politicians who were in favor of war were often called war pigs. The reference to the Red Baron may refer to the spread of communism, and the superhero the American need to save the world (presented satirically). The bugs/pests are shaped like airplanes, which could also further the point that the United States had become militant bullies, pestering other countries (this is also an idea explored by Garcia, for example in Snow White and the Black Lagoon, in which she critiques the US military-industrial complex).
Andrew Stevens and Raymond Gloeckler, Ray Gloeckler, Master Printmaker (Chazen Museum of Art, 2004).