Charlie James Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition Travis Somerville: A Portion of That Field… opening to the public on Saturday, February 27, with a reception for the artist from 6pm-9pm; on view through April 17.
This show contains work from Somerville’s museum show in late 2009 at the Ben Maltz Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, entitled Dedicated to the Proposition. In concert with the LA opening @ Charlie James, Somerville will be opening an exhibition on the 20th of February at the Catharine Clark Gallery in San Francisco entitled Rededicated to the Proposition. Each gallery will have roughly half the work from the museum show at Otis.
The exhibition presents a new body of work including painting, drawing, sculpture and installation. The exhibition title refers to Abraham Lincoln’s historic Gettysburg Address delivered during the Civil War: “Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” In this speech, Lincoln asks the nation to honor its fallen by challenging its citizens to fully realize and achieve “…a new birth of freedom-and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
With this body of work, Somerville explores the complex inheritance of a nation trying to live up to Lincoln’s challenge of being a nation not divided, but truly “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The artist is interested in investigating the tension and contradiction in America’s realization of equality and freedom for all between the numerous examples of the nation’s success manifest in Obama’s election and first 100 days and the nation’s failure evidenced by the enduring and shameful aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Travis Somerville was born in 1963 in Atlanta, Georgia to white civil rights activists-an Episcopal priest and a school teacher, and grew up in various cities and rural towns throughout the Southern United States. The geography of his upbringing is important – growing up in the south during the 1960s, a period of immense social upheaval, has deeply informed the narrative content of his work. His work simultaneously tries to reconcile his own Southern Christian upbringing and the tumultuous racial politics of 60s with the more progressive but better concealed racial divisions of today.
Somerville studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and at the San Francisco Art Institute. Select solo exhibitions include Another Song of the South at University of Georgia, Athens; American Cracker Too at Alfred C. Glassell Jr. Exhibition Gallery, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, and New Work at University of Houston, Texas. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions including the Smithsonian Institution’s traveling exhibition In the Spirit of Martin Luther King: the Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Whiteness: A Wayward Construction at the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach, California, and Lincoln: Man, Myth, and Memory at the Amistad Center for Art and Culture in Hartford, Connecticut. His work is included in the permanent collections of the di Rosa Preserve: Art & Nature, the Achenbach Collection of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Laguna Art Museum, and the San Jose Museum of Art, among others. He has garnered critical attention in numerous publications including Art in America, Flash Art, Kitchen Sink, and The Washington Post.