“A Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party,” featuring the works of late artist Jeff Perrone, is on view at Corbett vs. Dempsey. Using his decorative roots, Perrone combines intrinsic designs of buttons, thread and mud cloth on canvas with text depicting powerful, revolutionary phrases. Five canvases offer a combination of four crucial constituents: this stark use of language, imagery of a weapon, traditionally craft materials, and hypnotic colors. The exhibition results in muddled, confused negative space pushing text forward one moment and pulling back the next. Dizzying and inciting, Perrone nods to past rebellious thinkers by treating their words like objects as integral to the backbone of each piece as the media itself.
One canvas split down the vertical middle is “Hatred of the Bourgeois Is the Beginning of Wisdom.” The left side is pale sage with strips of mud cloth wrapping horizontally across the canvas. A depiction of a bomb consists of tiny black-adjacent buttons spiraling in a circle. A white line of buttons pokes from the top, finished with two bright red buttons poking out tauntingly, waiting for ignition. The right side of the canvas is a blush-pink background with a watermelon shape floating toward the edge of the frame. The watermelon meat, hot pink and peppered with black seeds and a green rind, the buttons coil upon one another with a white string springing from the top in the same way the aforementioned bomb is depicted. Across the entire canvas reads the text, “Hatred of the bourgeois is the beginning of wisdom.” Each letter slowly lifts from the surface and becomes visible after the viewer has spent enough time familiarizing themself with the landscape of the piece. From legible to unforgettable, the commanding words of Gustave Flaubert reverberate as the viewer moves to the next piece.
“We Revolt Because We Cannot Breathe” depicts a canvas split horizontally with the now-familiar striping of mud cloth in a faded cobalt blue on the top half and burnt orange on the bottom. Ping-ponging down the middle of the canvas are four buttoned arrows, launched and sailing both upwards and downwards. Deescalating down the sides of the canvas reads the text, “We revolt because we cannot breathe.” While the rest of the text takes time to observe before becoming legible, the word “because” jumps off the canvas and cements its presence immediately. Perrone’s choice to emphasize this word is as intentional as each perfectly placed button that scatters the canvas. It plants a seed in the viewer’s mind to consider the impetus of these phrases, and not let the profundity of the language distract from this consideration.
In this body of work, Perrone built upon his established style of abstraction with dyed fabrics and button embellishments by adding deliberate uses of text. The resulting canvases are not displays of language, but rather opportunities to dissect the language by their origins, the personhood of the author, and the impact of the words. The room for interpretation found in abstract work combined with the literal information conveyed with the text presents a moving dichotomy, one where the viewer is both instructed to comprehend, yet given room to play with the potency of each chosen word.
Jeff Perrone, “A Revolution Is Not a Dinner Party,” at Corbett vs. Dempsey, 2156 West Fulton, on view through June 17.