Ian Tweedy’s highly skilled paintings punctuate the gap that exists between a past composed of different national stories, cultures and social identities, and the amnesia of the present. Drawing from an extensive personal archive that includes maps, old book covers, obscure found documents, art history and tears from Life and other magazines, Tweedy closely studies his source material before selectively painting over top, recreating them with his hand and/or collaging them together. The effect is of a kind of historical hacker, with Tweedy crossing over and cutting up associations of history, geography and identity, divorcing them of context and order, and then building on them to create an imaginary biography of the present.
The works in The Arts Club show are the first instalment of a larger series the artist is undertaking that challenges head on both grand notions of History Painting, in this case the work of early Renaissance artist Andreas Mantegna, and more contemporary historical events. Tweedy is particularly interested in American history – most especially US interventionism, but also specific sub-cultures such as Mormonism.
As the title Post Red Scare Raid suggests, works in the show draw on America’s dark periods following the first and second world wars of ‘red scare’- an intense fear of communism that turned Americans against friends, neighbours and especially foreigners, with police raiding the homes and meetings of anyone deemed suspicious. Several months ago, Tweedy stumbled on a photo from this period showing immigrants preparing to be deported. He was simultaneously researching and becoming increasingly obsessed with the monumental work of Mantegna, in particular his The Triumphs of Caesar created between 1486-1505 (on display in Hampton Court), and in his mind the two images merged. “The figures in The Triumphs of Caesar became my immigrants, anarchists, political refugees, craftsmen, artists, thinkers, etc. But the scenes in my paintings take place after a raid – the figures have just left the premises, either deported or missing. All that’s left are artifacts, fragments and shadows of what was left behind.”
Tweedy’s resulting suggestions of banners, flags, bags, clothes, sculptures for demonstrations and more, place the viewer in the position of being the archiver or writer of history, reassembling the pieces in a sort of DIY history kit to fit their own story.
Currently living in Brooklyn, Tweedy was born in 1982 at Flugplatz, Hahn Air Base in Germany and spent his childhood and adolescence in military bases around Europe, studying art at Milan’s NABA in Italy. He has shown widely including at Unititled Gallery, New York, the GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, Italy, in 21 x 21 : 21 Artists for the 21st Century curated by Francesco Bonami at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy; 50 Moons of Saturn, La Triennale di Torino, curated by Daniel Birnbaum, Italy; and Der Prozess at the Prague Biennial 3, Prague, Czech Republic.