Curated by Jonathan Ellis King
“Art is the most beautiful deception of all. And although people try to incorporate the everyday events of life in it, we must hope that it will remain a deception lest it become a utilitarian thing, sad as a factory.” Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918
Welcome to The Coke Factory. This group exhibition provides a site-specific presentation of the work of a new group of artists that have arisen from New York in recent years. Through placement of these artists within the conceptual bounds of a conventional industrial ‘factory’, this exhibition will seek to reveal and examine their creative motives, methods and the result of their productivity in the context of the dynamic society that they inhabit. The Coke Factory will principally act as a vehicle for interpretation, its utilitarian backdrop facilitating a portal through which the collective social commentary of the artists and their aesthetic energies can showcase the potent cultural domain and influence of New York City.
The Coke Factory recognises and pays tribute to the hyper-consumerist framework of Capitalist America with its epicenter, New York, embodying the inner-workings of the modern industrial factory. This is duly expressed in a multitude of lines and grids, streets and avenues, lights and cars, noise and pollution which replicate the mechanised production lines, the conveyor belts, the billowing of smoke and the mass yield of manufacture. New York, in this instance, cannot be overlooked as an environmental hub that becomes vital to the artist’s intellectual modes of creativity and origination. Indeed, environment suggests that of a stage or a platform intertwined with its inherent social and cultural forces at work within a city that is never still, never at rest, never at peace. The Coke Factory comprises artists who are embedded in this reality and sentiment. Their practice capitulates to the ever-dynamic, irreconcilable attitude and vibrancy of the New York art scene.
In this exhibition, each artwork assumes form as a popularised by-product that is individually fabricated and assembled through the rigorous processes of the ‘factory’s’ operational channels. Indeed, each work can equally be interpreted as a vital cog within this grand machine, each performing an important task: much like the buildings and grid-like blocks of New York’s infrastructure acting as critical pinions to the city’s cyclic existence.
The use of ‘Coke’ within this conceptual frame offers deeper connotations. Whilst obviously referencing the soft-drink, ‘Coca-Cola’ as an icon of US pop culture, there is also the clear implication of the narcotic and its associated aggressive and destructive sub-culture within the urban centre. The nature of the The Coke Factory’s existence becomes altogether more ambiguous and elusive. Yet, this conceptual gallery space or ‘factory’ represents and, indeed, fundamentally remains a site of creation and productivity. Debussy’s charge is negated in the realisation that The Coke Factory enables continuing deception: the artworks or cogs rise above its utilitarian environment. Therein lies true aesthetic beauty and value that transcends its surroundings.