Shawn Huckins: Dorothy Quincy, Don’t You Realize That I Only Text You When I’m Drunk (2012)

This is a work of many layers, the earliest one being a portrait of Dorothy Quincy by American realist painter John Singleton Copley.

Quincy was the wife of the first man to sign the Declaration of Independence. So her portrait is also a slice of history, nevermind art history.

Shawn Huckins has reproduced this grave example of canvas-based nation building, using the poppier medium of acryllic rather than oil.

And the results gets fresher still as he overlays a frequently used piece of textspeak. This makes the 18th century piece of artwork look like a 21st century meme.

The words and acronyms float between ourselves and the subject. Just as the internet can bestow attitude to cats and owls, it can do the same for historic personages.

So viewed in a browser from the UK (owing to geographical limitations) Huckin’s work looks at first like a streetwise makeover for its targets.

But since poor Quincy would have had limited access to a mobile phone, it seems that upon reflection this apologia for drunken texting belongs to the artist.

And the title nails things down, addressing Quincy by name. Now the entire work can be seen as a drunken, and perhaps spurned, overture to realist portraiture.

In this work and others like it in the series, it is as if some crude textese is the only language the unrequited Huckins can find for his haughty subject.

Sure enough, the much maligned dialect of wired youth strips away the dignity and aspirations of America’s founding fathers. It lays pretension to waste.

The original portrait and the latter day texts call to one another across the lifespan of a empire that now appears to be coming to an end in rofls.

Work from Huckins’ American Revolution Revolution series can be seen in L2Kontemporary, Los Angeles, until August 18th. See his website or that of the gallery for more details.

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