Justin Lieberman: Farce

From left to right:
Feminine Revision Reclamation, 2005, Mixed media on panel.
Ascent of the Invertebrates, 2005, Mixed media on panel.
More, More, 2004, Mix media on paper.

Justin Lieberman was born in Gainesville, Miami, in 1977. The loss of his right eye at the age of two, rings the beginning of a tough upbringing with heroin addition, acute schizophrenia, a four-year probation sentence for burning a building and a few months of community service. However, he was still able to enroll and graduate with a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (MA) and, in 2004, he finished his MFA at Yale University in New Haven (CT) in sculpture. His oeuvre is composed of an eclectic mix of mediums, formats and techniques, everything from collages, sculptures, paintings to installations and digital art; works that can be linked only in that they were assembled and chosen by the artist. In a way his pieces all seem to constitute little clips of his tumultuously sincere and emotionally disorganized radical interior world.With a subversive sense of humor, the New York artist Justin Lieberman enjoys recontextualizing images from the media and pop culture in an attempt to undermine the organizational structures inherent in the contemporary culture. Lieberman has used this methodology for a number of years, as he has previously played out through the recognizable systems of advertising, furniture design, outsider art, home shopping television, art conservation, corporate franchises, and taxonomic display [1]. However, it is important not to think of Justin Lieberman’s work as only a series of conceptual strategies and games about consumer culture and art reception. The use of farce has a strong tradition in twentieth-century visual culture, and Lieberman invokes this lineage in his various works, for example in Feminine Revision Reclamation (2005); Ascent of the Invertebrates (2005), and More, More (2004).

The subject matter of Feminine Revision Reclamation (2005); Ascent of the Invertebrates (2005), and More, More (2004) are confrontational and slightly disturbing as their own titles indicates. Despite there are exaggerations and bravado, there is a pathos that provides a hint of his experiences and personal portrayals. The true impact of the works comes when the initial shock is left behind in order to meet with their transformation into a deeply personal, troubling, and sometimes-revelatory level. The viewer is confronted with is a series of images that explode onto the canvas with an amalgamation of color, text and imagery, all mixed with a surreal touch. Lieberman favors the readymade approach over the mass-produced, as he transforms images and objects from magazine clippings and advertisements by painting, collaging, and combining them in an unmistakable style informed by notions of excess and transgression.[2]

When trying to define the purpose of his work, Lieberman admits that, “art that serves a purpose, i.e.; is not useless, renounces its status as art and becomes merely applied art”.[3]His link to Dadaism becomes clear with this declaration of what is art, if not useless, and continues to link his work. The impact of his artistic merit is a deep reflection of the artist’s experiences, which can be described as banal and slightly depressing. However, projected through the style of farce, the artist continues to mock the work and its subject matter. The artist explains, “The failed real thing is unparalleled in its banality, which transcends mere intentionality… The laughter that accompanies the failed real thing is a cold and heartless one.”[4]

Lieberman has often exhibited all around the world in galleries in Great Britain, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Los Angeles and New York. His solo exhibitions include 2010 – BFAS Blondeau Fine Art Services, Geneva, Switzerland; PlatYtudes Bernier Eliades, Athens, Greece; Salto Mortale 2009 – Marc Jancou Contemporary New York, USA; The Corrector Custom Pre-Fab House Zach Feuer Gallery, New York, USA; The Corrector in the High Castle. Selected group exhibitions include 2008 – McDonough Museum of Art, Youngstown, USA; Agency: Art and Advertising Marc Jancou, New York, USA; Heroes and Villains Marc Jancou, New York, USA; Faces and Figures.

[1] “Justin Lieberman – Cornerhouse Publications”. Cornerhouse Publications, 2020, https://www.cornerhousepublications.org/publications/justin-lieberman/.

[2] Lieberman, Justin. “Justin Lieberman : – Les Presses Du Réel (Book)”. Lespressesdureel.Com, 2020, https://www.lespressesdureel.com/EN/ouvrage.php?id=1498.

[3] “Rous, Janek. “[:Cs]Justin Lieberman[:En]Justin Lieberman[:] On Artyčok”. Artyčok, 2020, https://artycok.tv/en/13693/justin-lieberman.

[4] Ibid.