How often does a gallery exhibit prompt art-goers to say, “What the hell!?” Guy Overfelt’s new exhibit, “Guy Overfelt. A.C.A.B., 1995-2017,” does just that by showcasing kittens, odd paintings, and a police car whose front is totally smashed from a high-speed crash. The car still works — its lights flash on and off for visitors at Ever Gold [Projects], where Overfelt’s exhibit runs through August 19. SF Weekly spoke to Guy Overfelt via email — and his answers are typically Guy Overfelt: smart, funny, irreverent, and thought-provoking. Just like his exhibits.
SF Weekly: In a long interview you did in 2012, you addressed your big use of cars in your art. For this new exhibit, why did you choose a semi-demolished police car that you tweaked with video images in the trunk — and why pair it with Siberian kittens, U.S. flag chairs, and the like?
Guy Overfelt: I’m interested in America’s obsession with cars, especially the ones with loaded symbology that lean into the human condition. Like OJ’s Bronco. Fonda’s panhead. Princess Diana’s Mercedes. Louise’s Thunderbird. Smokey and The Bandit Trans Am. Suge Knight’s 750iL. And of course, Black and White — the signature color scheme of most American police cars. The approach for the exhibition was to take two very powerful, inescapable content streams happening concurrently in mainstream and social media and find an unexpected and poignant intersection of Trump and the police to establish as the foundation for the show’s conceptual framework. A Venn diagram of sorts.
Ultimately, to develop a system to process the onslaught of alarming White House decisions and announcements and the proliferation of unimaginable law enforcement brutality. A transformative idea that could provide a provoking perspective and opportunity for respite. Seemingly politically incorrect yet powerful and provocative, I found “pussy” at the intersection. In context — as is relates to Trump for his infamous quote, “Grab them by the pussy” and to the cowardly, shameful actions of the police — ACAB, All Cats Are Beautiful, is an attempt to reframe “pussy” without a heavy didactic hand. To explore the poetic and humor and use the signifier to create dialog around how to possibly achieve perspective on the signified. I am completely aware that this is a polarizing place for a white American male artist to venture.
With “pussy” as a foundation, seemingly disparate layers of meaning and juxtaposition are presented as a relational experience. A 2011 Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, the same year Trump initially sought presidential candidacy but decided against running in the 2012 election. The frontend brutally damaged by a head-on collision. The passenger and driver airbags deployed. The backseat area for detaining suspects reconstructed to enable viewers the opportunity to feel what it’s like. The police light bar, hacked to function, provides a disco-horror feel. Two video monitors in the trunk of the cruiser display riot and protest footage watermarked with Getty Images, a worldwide supplier of stock video and images for advertising and media usage. Available for adoption and free to roam the gallery, Russian Siberian kittens nicknamed Vlad and Kim.
The American flag beanbag chairs made in China, stuffed in America, and purchased online at Walmart, provide a convenient place to sit while petting the lovely kittens. The endless sculptural columns of Brâncuși, an immigrant modernist pioneer, neutered to cat scratch posts. And lastly, large- and small-scale paintings of starry night sky created by using a pressurize fire extinguisher filled with road-marking paint shot onto Belgian linen. A nod to the traditional materials of the Renaissance painters and the chiaroscuro technique; a strong contrast between light and dark to create dramatic form. A fitting conceptual metaphor, the paintings entitled (double-entendre) with affirmations as possible antidotes to our current mental health in that most spiritually entitled Northern California kind of way: Just because I made a mistake, doesn’t mean I am a mistake.
SF Weekly: Andrew McClintock at Ever Gold [Projects] told me that two police officers came by the exhibit and enjoyed your work. What are your thoughts on police as art-goers – especially to your exhibit?
Guy Overfelt: The show’s title is play on the anti-police acronym A.C.A.B., “All Cops Are Bastards,” that dates back to the 1920s. Its use in some countries will land you in jail. Displaying ACAB (or 1312) would make you target for getting the crap beat out of you by the authorities. There is also a popular variant on ACAB “All Cats Are Beautiful,” which has several meanings. Perhaps it’s a more diplomatic notion that not “all” cops are assholes. There are very few absolutes in this life. I’d like to think the SFPD enjoyed the irony.
Guy Overfelt: The press release Blouin was parroting is the recipe of conflating current political events with relevant art history; Chris Burden’s 1971 “You’ll never see my face in Kansas City,” with a dash of Trump calling news organizations FAKE NEWS, stirred together with the Situationist International doctrine for spectacle and media infiltration, then a healthy scoop of inspiration from Ivanka’s plagiarized RNC speech by appropriating the recent press release for Jason Rhodes’ exhibition at Hauser & Wirth in L.A. that deep dove into a decade-old personal pursuit for the meaning and worship of “pussy.”