In a studio strewn with cement bags and empty cans of Pabst, amidst a cacophony of thrashing guitars, Josh Byer’s vision rages into life. His concepts and materials are derived from the detritus of society, of pop culture, of his own creative process. His skill set is an amalgamation of techniques honed in various studios at art school and on the job as a plasterer, mason, and machinist. The result is a unique and indelible form of pop art that synthesizes his Rust Belt roots, wild child lifestyle, and the nostalgia of growing up in a culture shadowed by the apocalyptic cynicism of Generation X.
Josh Byers’s persona is one that, at times, harkens back to the hyper-masculinity of the abstract expressionists: the chain-smoking, hard-drinking, fist-fighting artists who brought America to the forefront of the visual arts for the first time in history. And yet, he also possesses an acute sensitivity, one that allows him to internalize the political, social, and cultural reverberations around him and distill it into objects that are at once provocative, heartening, humorous, and schmaltzy. The body of work represented in “No Recess” is an invitation into the mind of the artist as Everyman.
Byers’s mixed-media assemblages and sculpture deftly evoke his upbringing in Akron, Ohio in the 1980s. The once booming manufacturing hub rapidly declined, devastating the working-class community irreparably. It is here, in the ruins of the American Dream, that the stage for this series is set.
- Carlos Smith, 10/15