The Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art is proud to present Rebuilders. Focusing on the context around Breaking Armistice (2014), a significant painting in the oeuvre of the Las Vegas artist Gig Depio, this exhibition positions the artwork as a landmark in a shifting community of voices and ideas.
The year when the painting was created was an important one for Depio. After moving to the United States from his home in the Philippines, where he had been apprenticed to his father, a professional artist, he was working to redefine his vocation while preparing for his first U.S. solo exhibition. His smooth paint surfaces were evolving into the flurry of overlapping textures that characterizes his style today, while his vocabulary of figurative objects grew to include a new series of symbolic motifs. The social critique that had already appeared in his work was expanding to encompass new opinions on history, philosophy, the ubiquity of contemporary media, and the relationship between the blue-chip art world and everyday art culture.
None of these developments took place in a void. This exhibition includes not only Breaking Armistice (part of the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art collection) but also evidence of the influences that brought Depio to the point where Breaking Armistice could be conceived. It includes material from vigorous Facebook discussions with an online community led by the art critic Dave Hickey, as well as a commentary from Darren Johnson, the curator who watched Depio’s mature style take shape. Catch-22 (2011), a painting that foreshadows the themes in Breaking Armistice, will be on view, along with working drawings and other ephemera. Visitors will be able to see how Depio’s ideas moved from one composition to another, finding clarity as he sharpened his powers of self-expression in communication with fellow artists and critics.
“When I saw Gig’s work for the first time at the Winchester, I realized he had found a way to take something that felt as local as The Blue Man Group and bring it into a large-scale argument about history and culture,” says Rebuilders curator D.K. Sole. “When I think about his interest in the ramifications of historical events, it seems natural to use one of his paintings as a starting point for a conversation about the place of individual artworks in the whole narrative of time.”
Today, with exhibitions in Europe and Asia under his belt, Depio is a long way from the time when he was searching for an audience that would take his aspirations seriously. Rebuilders challenges the Romantic fiction of an isolated “lone genius” painter with a picture of an artist finding a community that focuses his ideas and gives him a reason to pursue his vision.
Gig Depio presents the conjunctions of contemporary and historical forces in the form of intense, often large-scale, figurative compositions. Depio’s body of work focuses on American culture and its history, the exploration of the unfamiliar west and later expansion and influence across the globe, especially on the convergence of American, Philippine, and Spanish histories at the turn of the 20th century, and the inevitable interweaving of many different cultures from then on. His individual paintings depict particular political and cultural events in points of time and geographical space in history, but his body of work seen as a whole encapsulates a much bigger picture of how our ideologies and resulting collective human endeavors have directly affected every aspect of our environment in the age of the Anthropocene.
Many of his paintings incorporate Las Vegas iconography, such as the Zappos llama, images of casino performers, and local birds.
Recipient of the 2016 Nevada Arts Council Fellowship Grant in Painting, he has exhibited across Nevada, with shows at the Nevada Museum of Art, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, the University of Nevada in Reno, and the Clark County Winchester Dondero Cultural Center Gallery, Las Vegas, among others. Depio has been an exponent for public, non-profit and independent art in Nevada since 2009, and has recently extended his advocacy internationally, including exhibitions with the National Commission for Culture and Arts (NCCA), Manila, Philippines in 2018, and in the 58th Venice Biennale, Giudecca Art District (GAD), Venice, Italy in 2019.
D.K. Sole is a visual artist and a writer. A graduate of the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia, she currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and works at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art.
Gig Depio: Rebuilders runs from January 15 - April 2, 2021. Entry to the museum is free. Please see the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art website to read our safety guidelines and make a timed reservation before you visit.