CALIFORNIA Cool is an appropriate way to describe international artist Jim Ricks. Born in San Francisco, but working from Ireland, he has developed an artistic genre, which is uniquely tongue in cheek. He calls it “art appropriation” and the former student of the Burren College of Art is highly successful at it.
By John Rainsford
Maybe it is that bit of Irish rogue in his genes but the multi-media artist has made a bright career from scrutinising the artistic works of the modern masters. It is a style that has been heavily influenced by the graffiti artists and political activists he grew up with in America.
As Jim is quick to point out, he does not merely copycat but rather he brings his own unique interpretation to the newly created object. You might say his artistic role is more akin to that of a musician covering a well-known song. This is intended to be part tribute and part originality. A musician, for example, interprets the music around him in his own way and adds to it. Jim acknowledges the originality of other artists but also wants the viewer to reflect on what art really means to them personally.
“When I was younger, I was drawn to collecting items, displaying them in a museum and archiving them away. I would also create my own world with maps. Now, I use imitation as a vehicle to explain or explore new ideas and concepts such as authenticity, originality and ownership. I suppose you could say that I am a storyteller of sorts retelling and rewritng old stories,” he explains.
In using such imitation as a tool for artistic endeavour, he has been heavily influenced by the work of the Dadaists in Zürich, Switzerland (1916 to 1922). That cultural movement is credited with being the influence for later punk rock and surrealism and their anti-art ethos really appealed to Jim.
“California has a lot of galleries and artists but renting a flat and studio is incredibly expensive,” he says. “Artists tend to fall into certain schools, scenes and styles. I just wanted to step away from this habit. I came to the Burren, five years ago to remove myself from outside influences. There is also no equivalent to the Arts Council in the USA.”
Here he met Tom Molloy who has taught at the Burren College of Art for over 10 years and whose work focuses on the geo-political realities behind US power in the world. Jim was also influenced by these themes and recently appropriated a dozen works from a 2005 show Molloy exhibited in Limerick called Yo lo vi.
Using a variety of mediums ranging from photographs, collage, paper sculptures and even fabrics, Ricks produced his own idiosyncratic interpretations at Occupy Space Gallery in Limerick – scarcely a stone’s throw from where Molloy once exhibited at Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA).
Jim produced his show on a reduced budget, using limited materials and old catalogue photos of Molloy’s work. He knowingly distorted that work giving it, in the process, a whole new meaning under the title, Yo llo mmot or Tom Molloy spelled backwards.
Jim Ricks completed a Bachelor Degree in Fine Art (BFA) at the California College of the Arts between 1998 and 2002 before doing a Master Degree in Fine Art (MFA) through the National University of Ireland (NUI) Galway and the Burren College of Art (2005-2007).
His themes tend to be transnational looking at the injustices inherent in our dealings with less-developed countries (LDCs). While goods and commerce can cross borders the poor cannot, being condemned indefinitely to playing catch-up with the western world.
“Not many are offended by appropriation,” he states. “It is a completely different concept to forgery. What I do is akin to riffing (creating inventive commentaries) or even karaoke. For exhibitions, I am typically making copies of works selling for millions of dollars, such as those by Mark Rothko (1903-1970). It is not the same of course but then again, it is not intended to be. I am making a larger comment about the world of art if you like.
“Every city now has to own a collection of art masters to be recognised as a proper city. And the market is absurd. I like to poke fun at the concept of value and intellectual property rights in the context of today’s society,” he explains.
He professes to missing urban life and recoils from the cost of living miles from a big city where the price of art materials and supplies is twice as high. He hopes to return to California at some stage but like St Augustine, not quite yet.
With numerous national and international exhibitions to his credit, he recently received the Artlink New Art Award for a solo show featured in July 2010 at Fort Dunree, County Donegal. He was also selected for Video Killed the Radio Star at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin between January and February 2010.
He has exhibited with MART’s An Instructional: A European Tour (2010) in Dublin, London and Berlin and the Galway Arts Festival’s Enrage. In 2009, he exhibited in The World Shrinks for Those Who Own It, with Oliver Heinzenberger at Galway Arts Centre and The Life and Times of Lillian Virginia Mountweaze at Monster Truck Gallery and Studios in Dublin. He has also participated in Frieze Projects’ COPYSTAND: Autonomous Manufacturing Zone in London recently.
Jim Ricks has had a series of successful shows in Ireland including the touring public work Poulnabrone Bouncy Dolmen from August to September. His next show called Synchromaterialism, will be held at the Pallas Contemporary Projects, Dublin throughout November 2010.
Always worth a visit, Jim Ricks shows are vibrant and ever changing just like modern life itself.