Featured Image: Throwin’ a Loop

Billy Schenck’s work literally throws the viewer for a loop when we are confronted with his style in opposition to how traditional Western art looks.

As we all have been thrown a loop in this current environment dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, what can we learn from his unique style and how has his pushing of the boundaries changed the landscape of Western art?

One of the originators of the Western Pop art movement, Billy incorporates techniques from Photorealism with a Pop art sensibility to both exalt and poke fun at images of the West. Born in a small town north of Columbus, Ohio, in 1947, he spent childhood summers exploring the wilderness near Lander, Wyoming. He attended Columbus College Of Art and Design from 1965 to 1967, and received his BFA from Kansas City Art Institute in 1969.  While still a young man, he moved to New York where he was influenced by the Photo-Realists, Color Field, and Minimalist painters in vogue at the time.  When he was 24 years old, his first solo show in New York City sold out.

Early in his career, Schenck became known for utilizing cinematic imagery, reproduced in a flattened, reductive style, where colors are displayed side-by-side and not blended. His work is also characterized by vibrant colors, surreal juxtapositions and patterning which explore clashes between wilderness and civilization, the individual and community, nature and culture, freedom and restriction.

As we struggle processing this new “landscape” we are dealing with, a central understanding of what art does for us a society is clear in Billy’s work. There is a sense of escapism through his playful and dreamy compositions. One can travel back to their childhood and the days of fantasizing about what the West was and looked like in our imaginations. The same can be said for his reference to the cinematic quality of his paintings. Drawing upon a hugely popular Western film genre, many connections can also be made to how movies define visual notions of the West.

When we look at art, we are able to displace reality momentarily and find narratives that facilitate that sense of escapism away from the daily struggles we are presented with. Attached below are a few coloring book templates where you can allow your creativity and vision come to life. Please share your interpretations with us on social media.

This blog entry was written by our Exhibitions Manager, Jason Kirkland. Jason has been at the Briscoe for 1.5 years and his primary focus is developing and implementing the Briscoe’s exhibition schedule and the rotation of works throughout the permanent galleries.