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Regis Shephard's new installation reminds viewers of what it means to be an American

The tiny quarters of Blue Star's Gallery 4 provide a stark white backdrop to an assemblage of black-and-white charcoal

Regis Shephard's What Is Really What? installation, currently on view at Blue Star Art Space. Photo by Mark Greenberg
caricatures. Their grossly exaggerated facial expressions communicate the spectrum of a negative range of human emotion - hate, fear, disgust, anger, and indifference. Shreds of our Constitution's preamble dangle from the main gallery wall, purposefully hung in reversed sequence, etched in white letters on black tarpaper scrolls. On the adjoining walls, a spontaneously painted likeness of Uncle Sam faces off with Osama bin Laden (or is it?), black paint dripping like venom from both of their crudely rendered portraits, mutual hatred engendered by the slurs "infidel" and "heretic" splashed in black by each man's distorted kisser. The room becomes a literal flow chart of hate - cause and effect streaming in from the periphery, fueled and intensified by rhetoric and general confusion in the center.

Shephard artfully avoids the typical ideological pratfalls of youth - he does not attempt to preach or resolve; his unbridled negativity is unilateral. Many viewers find such work difficult in that it offers no symbolic refuge or silver lining - no pat solutions steeped

Noon-6pm Wednesday-Sunday
and by appointment
Through June 1
Blue Star Art Space
Gallery 4
116 Blue Star
in predictable, liberally bent naïveté.

Perhaps even more difficult is the vast interpretive scope of the work. Anyone remotely in tune with current events will inevitably project multiple meaning upon each element of the installation. Shreds of the Constitution suddenly become a manifold commentary - at once a reminder of what it means to be an American, an unveiling of the conditional nature of that definition, an illustration of the inherent absurdity of "us" and "them" classifications. In essence, the piece is simply a model - an illustration of how information is filtered, delivered, and interpreted in our society, and how deeply the hate begot from such misinformation pervades our collective consciousness. •

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September 9, 2020

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