Los Angeles, CA
a moment in the land of the Vote Sternberg campaign
by andrew cole
The sun is going down and Cole is deleting ‘Obama – Biden’ on a digital rendering of a bumper sticker and replacing it with ‘Vote Sternberg’. We’re surrounded by paint, spray, oil, acrylic, in no apparent order. Huge canvases are emblazoned with layers of gestural paint and dramatic ‘One Day’ monikers. I think he lives here too. At least there is a bed at the end of the room.
He’s older than I thought. He’s lived a couple fast lives already. He was an attorney for a minute. But for the past few years he’s more focused, using his legal, political and textual knowledge in an elegant way. On a strange never-ending campaign, Sternberg interweaves political statements and Kanye, Kafka and legal texts, the Geneva Convention and Bukowski, Nietzsche, Rick Santorum, Kim Kardashian and Sean Hanity. His works address where we find ourselves now, in an age of content overload, government control and the traditional hallmarks of good and evil humankind, from torture to consumption to hope. On one hand it is obsessive, scattered and messy, on the other it somehow comes together in sweetly subversive statement about all of us.
He’s working in a variety of spaces. A sail designed for a ship to be unveiled at Art Basel Miami Beach has just been completed as has the print series that accompanies his upcoming performance exhibition, strip mall, shopping center, outlet mall, mall of america. The exhibition focuses on his theory that Americans relate ‘freedom’ to consumption as a result of the progression of media, politics and technology over the past century. This performance, like ‘Vote Sternberg’ is an on-going journey for him. “I want to create a dialogue that continues past exhibitions and individual performances and into the societal framework,” he notes.
The dark vulgarity of gluttony is found in the upcoming performance. Every minute a baseball pitcher will throw a glass black beer bottle into the gallery from the street, while above his head a projection streams twitter comments transcribed in Sternberg’s writing from companies like Walmart and Papa John’s. The bottles smash against a cinder blocked space, missing a fourth wall, but resembling a tiny jail cell. “The glass will form an elegant yet decaying slope. We do have the Grand Canyon and John Boehner,” Sternberg explained.
Sneaking past the flying bottles, the viewers will find a selection of flat works. These are sitting in the studio and Sternberg pull them out enthusiastically. His permanent smile contradicts the words and the visuals. Perhaps they are his psychological outlet and now he’s happy.
Eight small works are actually the screens used for the print series. They haven’t been cleaned so a black layer of paint coats each, but the images underneath are still viewable. They are photographs Sternberg has taken over the last year. He sees them a collective overview of America idealism and wrong turns. They include images of winning a progressive poker jackpot, a shady ‘spa’, the sky, and the water. The screens themselves become the work as a further nod to production and consumption.
Enough about the show, back to the studio. There are a bunch of notes. He’s writing poetry and scratching it out and writing it again. A new version of editing. He stacks up the notes on the table as our eyes catch. Maybe he’s embarrassed, maybe he’s a spy. He’s definitely worried of a forthcoming collapse, but there is still a chance at success, at resolution. “I’m hoping I can at least create some awareness while also staying true to the visuals I find the most compelling,” he adds.
It’s an interesting journey through his world. Thus as he recommends, I end this article with ‘Vote Sternberg.’