I first met Tyrrell Winston almost a decade ago. At the time he was working out of an 80 square foot room in Brooklyn, New York which stunk of old cigarettes and found drug paraphernalia (he wasn’t smoking/using either, merely collecting the objects as anthropological evidence for his small assemblages of deadly detritus).
What has always struck me about Tyrrell’s personality as an artist is a cutting dry wit - a quality that manifests itself over and over again in his work as a critique of his own upbringing in middle-class suburban 1990s America. Basketball hoops, baseballs, nice cars, logos, the glorification of athletes and the commodification of sports franchises: all of the elements of Winston’s work are an ode to the power of America’s cultural exports, except instead of commenting on them from outside the capitalist complex, his work stems from the very nucleus of this phenomenon.
Family Values is a meditation on the false promises of American suburbia: pristine and gated, but altogether a “silly little nightmare” (in his own words). The Protection Paintings, made of found colored tarps pieced together with perfectly glossy panels painted by car mechanics, call into question the values of the suburbs: what do we protect and why? (We protect our things not our people - because we are American™.) You can almost hear the incessant car alarms going off on a quiet dark street in the outskirts of a California town as the kids pretend to be Michael Jordan, shooting hoops on their nicely paved driveways as their parents sit inside watching cable news.
What are family values to the son of a preacher man from Orange County, California? (It has always stayed with me that Winston’s father is a member of the clergy and that he was raised in the church.) Perhaps, they are something like that Dusty Springfield song, Son of a Preacher Man - a nostalgic familiarity that makes your skin crawl (because you know that behind the saccharine falsetto there is an emotional reality that, at any time, could violently crack). In Winston’s Punishment Paintings - he meticulously scrawls the autographed signatures of American sports hagiography over and over again - an obsessive reaction to the triumphs and tribulations of sports celebrity (much akin to Twombly’s study of Greek Mythology). The question remains: Who is being punished in these paintings? The athlete, the artist or the audience?
The title of this exhibition, Family Values, is an apt reference to a series of critically acclaimed music tours in the late 1990’s/early 2000’s, featuring metal and rap acts (including Korn, Ice Cube, Rammstein, Limp Bizkit) - a tongue in cheek joke about the generation of angry parents at school board meetings, incensed by this degenerate music - the inventors of the “Explicit Content” stickers and purveyors of hypocritical moral standards. The thesis of the work emerges: the utter fallacy of family values in a culture in which promises are made up of assets-and-goods is the landscape of Winston’s work - broken dreams for most, and ceaseless credit card debt for the rest. Teenagers in their Honda Civics, driving through dusk listening to music that makes their mother cringe, longing for the freedom of the metropolis they have only ever seen in the movies
(Thank you, John Hughes 1).
Text by Rachel Libeskind