Schroeder Romero is pleased to present UStrust, Eric Heist’s fourth solo show with the gallery. Through his past shows, Heist has developed an increasingly allegorical voice in which the personal collides with the larger institutions that shape our lives. For this show, Heist has created a fictional corporation, a bank named UStrust, as the site where the individual attempts to remain visible within a faceless corporation reflecting its self-interests.
The installation mimics a bank’s interior, including variations on a teller window, posters, crowd control stanchions, cubicle partitions, and video surveillance. In a series of advertising posters, images from the artist’s relatively comfortable life – a supermarket, the workplace, home, car, and bank – are interwoven with texts from the poverty-stricken in the United States. These appropriated texts become open, less tied to the actual feelings of invisibility expressed by the poor than to a fear of dematerialization in the artist and viewer. The text runs along the bottom of each poster in small text like an FDIC disclaimer, something one is not really meant to read:
I feel like I’m nothing
I steal to feed them
It’s my third offense
They took my kids, took my freedom
They spend a fortune punishing me
This theme of invisibility flows through the show: A teller window reflects the viewer in black. Video footage of a failed robbery depicts the artist in front of this same window, humbled by his inability to get past his own reflection. This situation is complicated by a post-robbery act of vandalism in which the teller window has been spray-painted by a reversal of the corporate name: “UStrust” becoming a sardonic command, “trust us.” The final act of invisibility is depicted in a life-sized diorama: a black dais at the center of the gallery, surrounded by incandescent black-lights and black velvet ropes – a negative stage on which lies a draped body, presumably that of the robber/artist, embracing his act of self-conscious martyrdom simultaneously unseen and public, seductively giving form to the invisible. Painting-like felt-covered panels adorn the surrounding walls in UStrust’s corporate colors of black and blue and transform the typical workplace, the cubicle, into a flattened, uninhabitable corporate sign and emptying the fictional interior of possible witnesses.
This corpse at the center of the show startles not through morbidity but through humor and self-deprecation. Conflicted feelings of powerlessness tempered with privilege, the limits of lording corporations and art’s own limitations in addressing social inequities all guide this impulse, negatively cementing our places in a complex network of consumption, a network that the artist’s desire to transcend does not escape.
A series of thematically-related drawings and gouaches depicting shoe displays, homeless artifacts, and swimming pools will also be included. Presented separately from the installation these function as an unlikely corporate collection for the elite, and reminders of the full spectrum of existence through markers of class. Drained, unmaintained swimming pools and the nomadic belongings of the homeless in tropical environments are both sobering and hopeful in the sense of providing escape from an otherwise oppressive existence defined through economy.