Bill Radawec: A Retrospective
Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Art
November 12 through January 20, 2011
If someone toys around with the concept of fakeness such as artist Bill Radawec, known for his whimsical ideas, one wonders what made him think of it? Was it his life in Los Angeles, a city who's luscious and exotic nature was created artificially? Or was he referring to its people, willing to endure cosmetic medical procedures to fit in with today's fashion trend? Or was he trying to find a new symbolic expression for the illusions produced by tinseltown? These questions stay unanswered; Bill Radawec passed away in July 2011 at age 59 after a yearlong battle with cancer. Yet one thing is for certain, his rectangular green panels presenting fake grass on painted grounds - part of his Soul Patch (1999) series and retrospective at Shaheen Modern and Contemporary Art - evokes the contrast between the real and the unreal, inviting the viewer to connect to his work on an intellectual and emotional level.
The retrospective at Shaheen also includes six images of Radawec's Contrail series, inspired by Flight 93 that flew over Parma, Ohio on September 11th 2001, and took a sharp turn southeast. Since Radawec was raised in Parma, Ohio and returned there after his father's death and personally witnessed the incident, they seem to have come from a very personal place and belong to his most serious works. Titled Out of the Blue, the Turn Around (2007), these bright blue acrylic paintings, displaying vapor trails heading in different directions, create a space for viewers to reflect on this traumatic moment in history. They make one wonder what the passengers of Flight 93 were feeling, thinking and saying in their last moments of life. The two small moving video cameras, which are part of the exhibit and installed on the gallery's walls, suggest the heightened security in the US after it had been attacked.
The show at Shaheen, put together by his widow Ibojka Toth-Radawec and friends, also presents several of his early works from his Bird(1996), Crack-Up (1997), and Color Chip(2002) series, as well as his more recent works titled A Study(2007), also known as the munchkin dioramas. In the latter, one is exposed to odd situations, including one in which a voluptuous woman strips naked in front of people minding their own business and others , such as a rabbi and construction worker, staring at her. There is also a man pointing at her with a bottle or rifle. The way Radawec's oeuvre is displayed is unique, such as the works themselves, hanging from a ceiling or being set up in the gallery's corner, or positioned on the walls at bizarre differing levels. Therefore the show is an eclectic mix of Radawec's art he created, while also being a curator, collector, dear friend, devoting and loving husband and son. Yet the show is even more than that; it is a celebration of a life and spirit of a man, who art critic Peter Frank described as “a brilliant artist, to be sure, witty, insightful and inventive; but he impressed me most as a communitarian, dedicated to the well-being of his fellow artists (and those who love 'em) and so fully identified with the 'art scene' that he would sacrifice his own productivity to get his friends' - and acquaintances', and strangers', and (if he had any) enemies' - art out in the public. He clearly regarded the display and dissemination of others' art part of his own portfolio.”
Simone Kussatz is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. She has written numerous articles in the field of the arts for international and national magazines published in Germany, the US and UK, China, Iceland, and Switzerland. Kussatz was born in Asperg, Germany. She holds a Master's degree in American Studies, journalism and psychology and received her education from Santa Monica College, UCLA and the Free University of Berlin. In 2004, she produced and hosted three TV-shows under the title "Metamorphosis", where she conducted interviews with Jewish artists in regard to the Holocaust. Kussatz has also worked in theater in the position of stage supervisor and manager in the plays “Talley’s Folly” and “The Immigrant.” She has taught English as a Second Language and served at Xiamen University in China, as well as EC Language Center in London.view all articles from this author