Jesse Sugarmann
Contemporary Movement

September 9–October 22, 2016


Contemporary Movement is a collection of objects, prints, and videos that consider current trends of sociopolitical unrest through the allegory and imagery of the 1960’s counter-culture group known as the Manson Family.

The Manson Family’s activities of the late 1960’s were prelude to Charles’ foretelling of “Helter Skelter”, a final race war that the Family would trigger and then escape, hiding in the bowels of Death Valley until the smoke had cleared. After Helter Skelter was complete, the Family planned to storm in on a fleet of dune buggies, taking control of the land from the race war’s victors. Helter Skelter was always an unfinished and unconfirmed narrative, with equal parts crazy guesses and drugged naivety, even as blood was shed in its name.

Charles Manson and the Family are so very tired now, ushered into consumer culture by Heraldo Rivera in 1988, and subsequently exhausted as counter-culture iconography in suburban shopping malls. However, there now exists a renewed vibrancy to the Family’s message. The resurgence of the police as “pigs”; the genesis of a charismatic, misogynist, racist demagogue at the highest level of America politics; the reactivation of race-based grass roots movements - each suggests Manson’s Helter Skelter is more plausible now than it has ever been. As the strategies and structures of Helter Skelter surface in contemporary political discourse, American politics are suddenly ripe with the Family’s fervor.

Helter Skelter exists as a precedent for what can be expected from the grimmest outcomes of social unrest. At the core of the Family’s efforts was an interest in uniting heaven and hell, in bringing about the end of society through collapse of the polar structure of good and evil. As a country, we seem to be pursuing this same end. Jesse Sugarmann’s Contemporary Movement explores these possibilities, using artifact, replica, re-enactment and icon to illuminate the structures and trappings of Helter Skelter as a cautionary tale during this contemporary resurgence of Family values.

Jesse Sugarmann is an interdisciplinary artist working in video, performance, sculpture and fibers. His work engages the automotive industry as a manufacturer of human identity, accessing automotive history as an index of both cultural identity and social history. Jesse has exhibited work both nationally and internationally in venues such as the Getty Institute, Los Angeles; el Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Oregon; the Banff Center, Canada; Filmbase, Ireland; Human Resources, Los Angeles; Michael Strogoff, Marfa; el Museo de Arte Moderno de Santander, Spain; Drift Station, Omaha; Fugitive Projects, Nashville; the 21c Museum, Louisville; and High Desert Test Sites 2013. His work has been written about in publications including ArtForum, Art Papers, ART LTD, Art Cards, Art Fag City, Art Car Nation, Frieze Magazine and The New York Times. Jesse lives and works in Bakersfield, CA.


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