Steve Rogers at AWHRHWAR

Artist: Steve Rogers

Exhibition title: Spectator Sport

Curated by: Michael Henry Hayden and Anthony Lepore

Venue: AWHRHWAR, Los Angeles, US

Date: October 10 – November 11, 2018

Photography: images copyright and courtesy of the artist and AWHRHWAR, Los Angeles

AWHRHWAR is pleased to present Spectator Sport, an exhibition of terra cotta tableaux by artist Steve Rogers. The show, guest curated by Michael Henry Hayden and Anthony Lepore, focuses on two bodies of work from the 1980s, connecting the artist’s depictions of raucous boxing nights at Olympic Auditorium in downtown Los Angeles with works based on the artist’s experiences in Central America and his time serving in the U.S. Army. The complicated and political narratives woven into his panoramas find inspiration and connection with the Latin American and Californian muralists of the early 20th century. These works serve to elucidate the past, but also reveal the present.

The first body of work is based on Rogers’ documentation of boxing nights at the Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles in the early ’80’s. These terra cotta tableaux pulse with pictorial energy. They portray the main events, but often focus equally on the packed and raucous audience, erupting into fights in the stands. Rogers’ studio at the time was across the street from the arena, and the energy surrounding the venue began to shape his artworks. He based these sculptures on extensive photographs he took at the fights, often situating himself in these scenes holding a camera.

The second body of work is based on Rogers’ travels through Central America. Rogers served in the Army during the 1960’s, an experience that informed his perspective on US involvement in foreign conflicts. After leaving the Army, he studied art under the GI Bill at San Francisco Art Institute. These works document the intersection of national unrest, foreign military occupation, and tourism.

The Central America panoramas replace the spectacle of the fight with political turmoil, and relocate the setting from the sports arena to ancient ruins. A piece on view in the gallery, Honduran Holiday, features American soldiers amongst the Mayan portrait monuments of Copán, Honduras. The depicted ancients stand in silent witness as two American soldiers photograph the scene. These works reveal Rogers’ meticulous observations and reverence for the ancient art objects that echo and inform the style and materials of his own work. The dissonance between the ancient Mayan sites and the American presence is palpable. We see soldiers with guns and with cameras. By presenting our military as tourists, Rogers questions the distinction between passive observation and complicit involvement.

These themes echo his interest in the boxing arena’s spectacle of violence which implicates both the audience and fighters. There is a parallel in these works to today’s theater of political turmoil which has the power to engage 24 hours a day. It’s an unrest that has spilled out from the arena of politics to the observers themselves. These works present not just the spectacle, but the real effects of war, displacement, and American imperialism. We are feeling the effects of these past actions today. Rogers presents these ideas through objects that are insistently handmade, small in scale, rendered in the ancient and fragile material of terra cotta. Forty years after they were made, these violent crowds and soldiers armed with cameras mirror a turbulent and tenuous now.

Steve Rogers has been working and exhibiting in Southern California since the early 1980’s. He had eleven solo exhibitions at Rosamund Felsen Gallery since 1982, and has also exhibited at Lois Stern Fine Arts, Praz-Devallade, and CB1 Gallery, among others.. His work is included in the collections of LACMA and the Berkeley Museum of Art. He has created several public commissions, including large-scale ceramic murals for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. He continues to make work in Upland, CA.

Steve Rogers, Spectator Sport, 2018, exhibition view, AWHRHWAR, Los Angeles

Steve Rogers, Spectator Sport, 2018, exhibition view, AWHRHWAR, Los Angeles

Steve Rogers, Spectator Sport, 2018, exhibition view, AWHRHWAR, Los Angeles

Steve Rogers, Rafael Bazooka Limon, 1982, Terra-cotta, 16.5 x 78.25 x 2

Steve Rogers, Fight Night #3, 1984, Terra-cotta, glaze, 19.375 x 57 x 2

Steve Rogers, Fight Night #3, 1984, Terra-cotta, glaze, 19.375 x 57 x 2

Steve Rogers, El Peso Ligero, 1981, Terra-cotta, 16.5 x 78.5 x 2”

Steve Rogers, 12th and Final Round, 1983, Terra-cotta, glaze, 16.625 x 48.25 x 2

Steve Rogers, 12th and Final Round, 1983, Terra-cotta, glaze, 16.625 x 48.25 x 2

Steve Rogers, Honduran Holiday, 1985, Terra-cotta, glaze, 24.5 x 75.5 x 9”

Steve Rogers, Honduran Holiday, 1985, Terra-cotta, glaze, 24.5 x 75.5 x 9”

Steve Rogers, Tikal Tourists, 1985, Terra-cotta, glaze, 11 x 54 x 4”

Steve Rogers, Tikal Tourists, 1985, Terra-cotta, glaze, 11 x 54 x 4”

Steve Rogers, Altar G2, 1988, Terra-cotta, glaze,  7.75 x 38 x 2.5

Steve Rogers, Altar G2, 1988, Terra-cotta, glaze,  7.75 x 38 x 2.5

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