John Foxell: Memento Mori
January 24, 2019 @ 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Staten Island Arts is thrilled to open the first solo gallery show of works by poet/sculptor/collage artist John Foxell. Beloved by local residents for decades prior to his December 2016 death, Foxell was known as “the unofficial mayor of Port Richmond.” On display at the arts council’s ArtSpace gallery will be Foxell’s assemblages and collage-based works, many of which reflect or satirize politics on Staten Island, as well as selected poetry, writings, film, and interviews by and with the artist. Following a January 24 opening reception from 7 to 9 pm, the exhibit will be on display through April 27, 2019.
Only since Foxell’s death has his extraordinary body of artwork gained the critical recognition it has long deserved. Categorized as outsider art, Foxell’s assemblages are made from found objects such as children’s dolls and toys, buttons, action figures, plastic (and real) skulls, Asian shrines, and African figurines. Writing for The New York Times in 2010, Constance Rosenblum noted pieces such as “the chess set in which a small plastic Big Bird serves as a pawn and a diminutive Tower of Pisa has been painted blue and transformed into a queen.” Photographs and headlines cut from local newspapers make the artist’s point of view known in his more political collage-based pieces and are enlisted as titles or focal points in his assemblages, shedding some light on the intent behind his juxtapositions. Many works reflect a fascination with the dark and macabre. Others seem to mirror, and critique, pop culture, mass consumerism, and current politics. Still others explore varying states of mental health. The works were created after the events of 9/11, which Foxell witnessed firsthand in lower Manhattan.
“John Foxell: Memento Mori” has been created in cooperation with Carolyn Clark, Foxell’s longtime friend and the executor of his estate, and Norman Brosterman and Rick Gallagher, who are leading the effort for Foxell’s recognition as an outsider artist. Brosterman notes “Both macabre and Pop, Foxell’s exuberant, free-wheeling, constructions are assemblages for the 21st century, and uniquely his. A self-taught artist, he created new work every day of his last decade, building an entire world from the cast-off toys and random detritus collected on his daily walks and weekly flea market forays. John Foxell lived an extraordinarily varied life of genuine eccentricity and compulsive creativity.” Brosterman will be exhibiting Foxell’s work at the internationally recognized “Outsider Art Fair” taking place January 17-20, 2019 at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.
Public programs that will accompany the exhibit include a “John-a-Thon” evening of readings from the artist’s writings, screenings of films about and featuring Foxell, a panel discussion on Outsider Art, and an art-making workshop on assemblage creation from found objects. Dates and workshop leaders will be announced at a later time.
Photo above by Michael Marcelle.
Staten Island Arts is supported, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo; and its artist, board, individual, and business members.