gouache on plaster on wood
ca. 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 7/8"
There was a resurgence of heroin use in late 1980's New York City. Added to that was the very dangerous and debilitating crack epidemic. The consequences were felt everywhere, especially in the neighborhoods where artists lived. I began making these plaster and wood tablets in 1989. They derive from the glassine envelopes I found on NYC streets, in bars, clubs and music venues. Approximately 2 3/4 x 1 3/8" when unfolded, these small, translucent packets contained heroin and each of these "bags" had a logo or brand stamped on it. These logos were not refined designs by an art director. They borrowed from popular culture: music, movies and current events. At first I regarded them as raw, unmediated pop art, but soon I understood them as territorial markers of my local landscape. Each type or brand of heroin identified a neighborhood and sometimes a specific corner where they were sold. I made these from recycled wood and coated with thin layers of plaster. The wood was cut from the stretcher elements of paintings that I felt had failed. The logos or design elements were achieved more by removal than a conventional additive drawing process. By using a razor blade as a makeshift stylus, I scratched away the plaster and carved a sort of bas-relief. Ink and gouache were used as the colored graphic elements present in the original packages. The larger scale of these (most on 80 x 48" plywood) had holes drilled into them and were sometimes patched/filled, like a physical erasure. Although I had already drilled through the wood supports in earlier works, these were intended to refer to the body---in the way an aperture might provide the ability to see, hear or breathe. In some cases rather than being patched, I stuffed cotton into the holes. The white cotton paired with the fine powdery plaster-gesso surface helped to distance these from paintings informed with color. The ground itself operates as the final surface.
All images and statements copyright Russell Floersch.