The Brooks‘ preparator, Richard Gamble, recently had an exhibit at the P&H Cafe titled Glass Eyes Scavenger Hunt. Every inch of the P&H’s walls are wallpapered with memorabillia, art, photos, posters, really anything you can think of, leaving no exposure of bare wall. Gamble wanted his artwork to be an excuse to pay attention to the environment as a whole; for the other objects on the wall to enter in his work and vice versa, conjuring emotion from a complex sense.
His work is multi-faceted and is often broken into several layers, or registers. As in medieval paintings or comic strips, each individual image bleeds and runs into each other to create the whole. In the case of his show at the P&H, the room represents the entire picture, and each painting becomes a discreet register. The result was so seamless that people were confused as to what was art and what was not.
For Gamble, the P&H was the perfect venue because it reminds him of an attic or thrift store, and shares an affinity with places like this. His mother runs estate sales, so Gamble has been exposed to thrifty environments since the womb. He grew up fascinated by found images and has developed his talent by taking bits and pieces of the images, objects, and ideas he scavenges and incorporating them in his own narrative. Anything, he said, can potentially be art. The images he appropriates have spoken to him for some reason, he said, and he tries to use their nostalgia, emotional weight, and vague familiarity to create a general sentimentality. By appropriating old images and borrowing form from other sources, Gamble hopes to activate what he calls “oblique emotion.” That is, by telling his stories from things borrowed, he remains emotionally detached from the work, while simultaneously attempting to conjure a complex emotional response from the viewer.
Gamble’s artistic interests lie in creating environments, essentially what he is paid to do for the Brooks, and he experiences the art of creating and conceptualizing environments everyday in his work. This idea fully came to fruition when he created Delta Axis’ 2007 Spring Dada Ball. As the gallery coordinator at Power House, he managed every aspect of the event from curating the art to choosing the band. He chose a theme of “Everyday Dada” and transformed the Power House into a “Dadist Better Homes & Garden.” By begging and borrowing from places around Memphis, he obtained a clawfoot tub from a local artist to put beverages in, beds, rocking horses, and even a scuba diver. Gamble used the history of the dada art movement–creating absurd objects out of mundane things– as the jumping off point for the interior’s design.
Gamble’s artistic endeavors also include music. He performed at the P&H the night of the exhibit opening. This was his first solo performance and he mentioned feeling vulnerable compared to his times onstage with his former bands. When asked whether his music, lyrics, and paintings are related, he remarked that he thinks male singer-songwriters and male painters share the same stereotypes of carrying a lot of baggage. This iconography and stereotype of the artist has been romanticized. While Gamble is conscious of these beliefs, he tries to divert from that heritage without becoming self-deprecating. The historically defining traits of an artist that he wishes to subvert are spontaneity and virile bravado–like Pollock splattering paint. He also relates to Warhol because he was a little indifferent, and because he was not a “man’s man.”
Gamble also tries to incorporate these ideals into his music. He uses a little bit of quotation and denies originality by using vaguely familiar song structures. When I shared with Richard that I could faintly hear Buddy Holly in his sound, he agreed, remarking that Holly’s songs are typical pop structures. On the subject of his paintings, he lists his influences as Rene Magritte and David Salle. Musically, he credits David Byrne, Robyn Hitchcock and Morrissey. He also recalled a performance art piece by Paul Taylor he saw a few years ago that made a big impression on him. He became enthralled after that with the integration of music and art in performance.
Gamble is unconcerned with selling this work in a non-traditional place like the P&H. He would rather use the opportunity to do something fresh and experimental as an interactive experience. And in doing so, he could educate the audience that wants to learn about art and buy art. By cultivating that audience in a non-threatening environment he feels the work can have true content and people can be relaxed and not intimidated.