Studio arts professor Joe Wardwell leaves a big print in MASS MoCA’s new wing

Joe Wardwell in front of his mural at MASS MoCA

Joe Wardwell's installation "Hello America: 40 Hits from the 50 States" at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is hard to miss.

Covering an entire gallery wall in Building 6, the much-celebrated new wing of the museum in North Adams, the mural is 146 feet long and 14 feet high. It's unlike anything Wardwell, associate professor of painting and current director of the studio art program, has done before.

"There's not many places that could take a mural that big," he said. "It's something I'd never faced before as an artist. It's huge."

From a distance, the mural brightly stands out. Up close, it engages viewers with ominous bits of American culture. The acrylic mural features large, bright block text as well as much smaller, subtler screen-printed text quotations, all laid over a painted dusky wooded landscape. The quotations come from a wide variety of sources, from punk rockers to presidential slogans to poets to progressive thinkers.

Wardwell found inspiration for his piece from equally far reaching places, like the post-apocalyptic science fiction novel "Hello America" by author J.G. Ballard - which features a mad man who calls himself President Charles Manson and declares “together, Wayne, we will make America great again!” - and a song by underground experimental rock band Negativland that features an expletive-laden rant by the late disk jockey Casey Kasem.

Read more about Wardwell and his mural for MASS MoCA.

Categories: Faculty
Date: July 6, 2017