Commentary: The Phoenix Remodernist Manifesto

Richard Bledsoe “Rider” Acrylic on canvas 18″ x 18″

After being exposed to the Remodernist manifesto of Charles Thomson/Billy Childish, I was compelled to write down my own ideas. This statement was introduced in the original Phoenix Remodernist exhibit “The Soul on Earth” in September 2010 at Deus Ex Machina Gallery; a revised version was produced for the Trunk Space Gallery “A Young City in An Ancient Land” in January 2012. Although used as a curator’s statement for these shows, the ideas are general enough to serve as a manifesto for the Phoenix Remodernist movement.

No one should be surprised, because it’s the same old story. The era of dissolution has come around again.

Civilization is seething, crumbling the carefully constructed but carelessly maintained social structures which have been taken for granted. This breakdown is global in scale, and it is accelerating; for millions of people, life will never be the same. It is the end times. But more importantly, it is also a new beginning.

As this turmoil unfolds, challenging our most basic assumptions, artists in Phoenix are contributing to the latest chapter of the ongoing story of art. There’s still plenty of groupthink Postmodern work getting made: redundant formalism, paint-by-numbers pop, and insubstantial conceptualism. Detached and irrelevant, these modes of art do capture something of the spirit of this era, as a time of decay. Invested in the old order, a cozy cocoon of crony capitalism, the creators of these works are provisioning a tomb with mummified ideas and simulated treasures.

However, there are artists who reject the futile remake/sequel dynamic that has come to dominate the establishment. All throughout the Valley of the Sun there are artists whose work is not contrived to fit existing art templates, but is an organic outgrowth of their own experiences and personalities. These artists work in a variety of styles and mediums, and no one label would fit them all.

Among all this diverse creativity, some artists, while following their individual visions, have arrived at common ground. Phoenix Remodernism has grown into a recognizable movement.

Our work is appropriate for a young city in an ancient land. With the wonder of youth, we wander in the ruins of fossilized civilization. With our own hands, we assemble from the debris affectionate homages to the human condition, works afflicted with humor and humbled by grace. We don’t care about impressing the gatekeepers, we want to interact with everyone. We are story tellers. We love where we’ve come from, and we preserve that love for the future to see. We invoke an eerie nostalgia for the past, for we accept we will be joining that infinite regression. We are the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, self-reliant and productive. We make a complex art for complex times.

Remodernism began in London in 1999, founded by punk rock Renaissance man Billy Childish and painter Charles Thomson as a protest against elitist art world politics. Remodernism recognizes art making as an inclusive, spiritual activity, and encourages a DIY mentality.

Remoderism is the return of art as a revelation. We are showing things about ourselves that can also be universally recognized. Our art symbolically represents flawed, searching humanity participating in birth, existence and death. It is mysterious and moving, comic and tragic, clumsy and elegant. It is a celebration of the beauty and weirdness of life.

-Richard Bledsoe