MY MAD SKILLZ
Runs until March 20
Art Gallery of Calgary
(117 Eighth Ave. S.W.)
If 32-year-old Paul Butler is mad, then its a smart kind of mad.
This Winnipeg-born artist has turned his visual musings about advertising into art ever since his days at the Alberta College of Art and Design in the late 1990s. Since then, Butler has become a bit of a star on the Canadian art scene with his touring exhibition, My Mad Skillz, now showing at the Art Gallery of Calgary.
The show consists of 52 works, with collage front-and-centre in the gallery and in Butlers mind.
"In general, what Im doing is recycling mass media," he says during a tour of the exhibition. "Were bombarded with mass media; we dont really have a choice."
While most of us simply accept the fact that everything from posters of super-size fries to full-page ads touting the latest in technology rain down on our collective consciousness, Butler is getting even. Using the images and conventions of mass advertising as a base for his constructions, Butler goes about manipulating the original messages with pieces of masking tape and cut-out words to create something all his own.
The Perfect 10s is a series that underscores what Butler can achieve with pieces of tape. It plays with images from a Playboy publication of the same name, which claims the models have not undergone any "physical enhancements" (read: boob jobs). Butler takes the photograph and covers the model up with minute pieces of black tape, leaving behind only a silhouette figure. The edited image becomes a visual indictment of the magazine and its consumers, who presumably consider blond women with inordinately large breasts to be "perfect 10s."
Although one might surmise that Butler is an angry young artist, he presents himself otherwise. He merely claims to be responding to the world of mass media that now surrounds North American society. But his Positive Mental Attitude series, included in this exhibition, reveals him to be an artist who can make powerful statements using straightforward, even simple, methods.
The series is created from colour picture-postcard photographs that Butler has taken from magazines. One example is an ad for cigarettes featuring a vista of the Rocky Mountains. Using his trusty tape, Butler masks out the point where the models are presumably enjoying a smoke break and replaces them with the words "Dont Smoke." He has then photographed the collage to mimic the high-end advertisement he is commenting on. The result is a sarcastic billboard that urges viewers to end their cigarette addiction before it even starts.
The other activity that the mad, mad Butler is becoming well-known for is his "collage party," in which invited guests rip apart magazines to create their own works of art. To date, Butler has taken the party to Montreal, London, Los Angeles, Oslo and, most recently, Calgary. He says he finds inspiration in the parties, which he uses when he returns home to Winnipeg to create more artwork.
"I make a living from advertising," says Butler. "I think its public property."