9 NOVEMBER - 10 DECEMBER 2007
Rice Gallery is pleased to present Big Landscape, Big West, a new installation by California artist John Cerney, on view November 9 - December 10, 2006. For 22 years Cerney, a muralist and sign painter, has created giant, realistically painted, plywood people that appear in fields and on storefronts throughout his native Salinas Valley. In Big Landscape, Big West, Cerney will seek to capture the sense of grandeur felt by tourists who first experienced the spectacular vistas of the American West. Big Landscape, Big West is presented in collaboration with The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibition, The Modern West: American Landscapes, 1890 - 1950, on view at the MFAH October 29, 2006 - January 28, 2007 in the Audrey Jones Beck Building.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
After earning an art degree from California State University, Long Beach in 1984, Cerney worked in Southern California as a portrait artist, rendering finely detailed pencil drawings. His patrons were television producers and writers, as well as late comedian John Candy and hockey star Wayne Gretzky.
Periodically Cerney traveled to his hometown of Salinas, California to paint large-scale murals on area barns. Commissions from local business owners made him realize that he could not only earn a living painting murals, but also gain a wider audience. Cerney returned to Salinas in 1991 to concentrate on mural painting. Over time, however, he decided a wall might not be necessary and he experimented with large painted figures that could stand on their own. In 1995, he created a series of ten large fieldworkers (each 18 feet tall) for a local farmer who wanted to pay tribute to the agricultural labor force in the area. With this commission, Cerney found his “blueprint.” Soon he put together group scenes, often telling a story while using a Norman Rockwell-like sense of humor. Cerney created one of his most iconic works for the Duncan Family Farms in Goodyear, Arizona. Situated on the edge of the highway, a humongous, laughing baby plays with life-sized tractors as their drivers run away in fright. Nearby, the baby’s mother stands, scolding him.
John Cerney’s installation at Rice Gallery will be the first time his large-scale work has been presented indoors. “I never cared about galleries and square things framed on a wall,” Cerney says. What mattered was “that people would see my work, and that meant working outside.” In a tribute to artist-explorer Thomas Moran, part of Cerney’s installation at Rice Gallery will be a re-creation of Moran’s well-known landscape, Nearing Camp on the Upper Colorado River (1882), painted on the gallery’s back wall. Moran, whose work is featured in the MFAH exhibition The Modern West, accompanied survey teams exploring the American West in the 1870s. His paintings ignited the American public’s imagination and helped convince the US Congress to declare Yellowstone a national park. In Big Landscape, Big West at Rice Gallery, instead of Moran observing and painting the Upper Colorado River, Cerney gives us a giant cut-out American family experiencing the magnificent scene firsthand.
Interview with Meghan Hendley,
KUHF 88.7 FM
24 November 2006
Article by Carol Pogash,
The New York Times
2 February 2005
Photos by Nash Baker © nashbaker.com