Andrew MesserschmidtAgroccult series, 2010-current
oil, acrylic, mixed media on paper
courtesy of the artis
Interview on KAXE public radio
In recent years, rural America has moved from occupying a marginal place in the cultural imagination to becoming, through a great
deal of one-dimensional representation in mainstream media, a kind of Rorschach test for the nation’s political anxieties. Through humor, abstraction, and wild juxtapositions, the expansive work of painter and installation artist Andrew Messerschmidt’s Agroccult series turns the table on such easy associations of the rural. In this artist’s universe, the celebrated nineteenth century riverscapes of George Caleb Bingham can reference the liberatory Los Angeles jazz of Horace Tapscott or a monolithic computer cursor can hover above the alpine pastoral of The Sound of Music. In placing these wide-ranging image systems alongside situations and objects found in rural cultural landscapes – a deer skinning, a covered wagon – Messerschmidt asks vital questions about identity, inspiration, and appropriation.
The Agroccult series is an ongoing project, exhibited in grids of overwhelming narratives and overlapping aesthetics. In the words of the artist, this series, which numbers close to 1000 10x10 inch pieces, is “an examination of how utopian occult philosophies and beliefs came to be and how they are continuing to evolve or morph into more subliminal and progressively esoteric obfuscations.” While visual references to the world’s religions may provide an entry point to this universe, the inclusion of images of snowmen, rural main streets, and agricultural practice suggest these interconnected systems of “philosophies and belief” are much closer to our lives than we might first assume. A Briar Patch Called Apophenia embodies this quality, the title referencing a condition described by Swiss psychologist Peter Brugger as “pervasive tendency … to see order in random configurations” and to confuse delusion for revelation. Far from a backyard patch of berries, this piece mixes a wry nostalgia with narrative uncertainty into an unsettling series of questions about what one might see in this painting, or in our own backyards.
Born in Manito, Illinois and a longtime resident of Ely, Minnesota, Messerschmidt is a prolific and award-winning artist whose work has been included in exhibitions across rural and urban spaces such as the Nemeth Art Center in Park Rapids, Minnesota, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
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