This talk will examine Somerville’s practice and the imagery that inspires his work, like the piece, Freedom Mugs, on view at the Tarble Arts Center. It will also look at how art can address American racism. Somerville’s work serves as a remixing of anti-nostalgia and critical memory. His work intermingles visual and verbal references to the semiotics of the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the civil rights movement, and the age of Obama. Somerville states that his work complicates the sense of a collective memory about how race has shaped the political, historical, cultural and social contours of America: “As I attempt to navigate the terrain between autobiography, history and art, all sorts of collisions take place. It is these interesting moments and the inconsistencies that inform them that I try to capture in my work.” Re-envisioning old advertisements, newspapers, vintage moneybags and cotton sacks, while poignantly juxtaposing his drawings and paintings against found imagery, Somerville entices viewers to ponder the biased and violent aesthetic influences found within America’s history and current happenings.
Travis Somerville has garnered critical attention in numerous publications, including The Washington Post, Art in America, FlashArt and The Los Angeles Times. Somerville’s work has been included in numerous museum exhibitions including at the University of Georgia; de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University; Florida A&M University; Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, CA; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many others. His work is included in numerous museum collections, including SF MoMA; the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, CA; the 21c Museum in Louisville, KY; the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, CA; the San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA; the Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL; and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.