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American Artist at Commonwealth and Council
June 3, 2021 - July 3, 2021
In 2013, American Artist legally changed their name accordingly, a sly inquiry into the ubiquitous term. Now on view in Koreatown is American Artist’s solo show, “I’m Blue (If I Was █████ I Would Die),” an exhibition originally shown in New York’s Koenig & Clinton gallery in 2019. Though the show’s title recalls Eiffel 65’s one-hit-wonder, the scene in the gallery has a more serious tenor. Three school desks arranged in the gallery are outfitted with propped up riot shields (a play on lift-lid style school desks), each equipped with a set of pro-policing reading material—titles such as “Behind the Badge” and “I Love a Cop.”
At the front of this make-shift cadet school, a training video features a teacher who is a hybrid of DC Comics’ Dr. Manhattan and Christopher Dorner, a Los Angeles cop who exposed a list of bad actors in the police force, killing several of them before dying in a shootout with police in 2013. Throughout the film, the blue character speaks to his imagined audience, with a string of anecdotes, questions, and aphorisms—a blend of moralistic inquiry and direct details about the LAPD and its internal corruption.
The script, backed by a moody synth track, was written by the artist, borrowing snippets from Dorner’s own writing. By conflating an all-powerful superhero, the artist’s own words, and snippets of Dorner’s vigilante manifesto, American Artist tugs at nuances that are often swept under the rug and opens up pathways to consider policing culture within America.
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Photo: Installation view, I’m Blue (If I Was █████ I Would Die), 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Commonwealth and Council. Photo by Paul Salveson.