Yautepec is pleased to present "Hey Man / Amen", its first solo exhibition for Mexico City-based artist Txema Novelo, on view from November 17th, 2011 to February 4th, 2012.
The exhibition's title is borrowed from a song by the minimalist psych band, Spacemen 3, in which the chorus of "Amen" has regularly been confused by listeners as being, in fact, "Hey Man." This blurred liminal—or limbo—space between the divine and the quotidian is a territory that Novelo has mined, decoded, and reconfigured extensively over his artistic career.
Much of the work featured in this exhibition was conceived and developed during Novelo's 2011 fellowship at Halle 14—an independent arts center in Leipzig, Germany—in response to the theme, "What Happened to God?" Working in the city in which Friedrich Nietzsche attended university and only a short distance from the town in which the Protestant movement began, Leipzig was for Novelo an incredibly symbolic place to begin his own research.
His point of departure was the biblical legend of Noah's three surviving sons after the great flood—Ham, Shem, and Japheth—fathers of the southern (African), middle (Semitic), and northern (European) peoples, respectively. Acknowledging that rock 'n' roll (which may be taken here as a loose umbrella term for post-war popular music) has, since its beginnings, assumed a religious character for its devotees—and in many cases, superseded the hold of Judeo-Christian beliefs—Novelo went on to identify three twentieth-century parallels to the sons of Noah: the iconic figures of Bob Marley (Ham), Bob Dylan (Shem), and David Bowie (Japheth).
As it follows, the exhibition "Hey Man / Amen" and Novelo's most recent book, "There's a Light That Never Goes Out," form part of this ambitious and ongoing general remapping of ancient sacred texts upon modern popular culture. Yet, as opposed to a mere genealogical project, the works that result from Novelo's research are, in turn, shrouded in their own symbolic systems and complex codified relationships in which cultural icons and their creative output become the material for novel combinations and permutations in meaning and form.
While Novelo's work continues in the tradition of elevating low to high championed by pop artists from Warhol to Koons, he curiously dispenses with the cynicism and irony inherent to pop art. Novelo is not just a true believer, but a proselytizer. Dan Graham's seminal 1984 video "Rock My Religion" is, as such, a natural point of reference for Novelo's artistic investigation but, clearly, Novelo has accepted Graham's thesis as a given. Indeed, rather than argue that Rock 'n' Roll is religion, Novelo wants to script its Holy Bible.