Six of the large works employ a resist process that Joseph has developed over many years. Silhouettes from his archive of clippings, catalogs and personal photographs are layered in oil pastel onto a patchwork of paper sheets, which are then disassembled and coated with water-based tempera. After being scraped with a razor and coated with acrylic-based ink, they are rinsed with water, dried and re-assembled. These chancy initial stages subject the work to physical risk, resulting in fields that Joseph further refines and elaborates into dense allusive skeins. In works from the new series Experiments in Expiration, Joseph scavenged the studio itself, repurposing piles of oil pastel shavings and a backlog of stencils, which he ironed and transferred impulsively onto paper that was perforated in the final stages. The resulting works are as much object as image.
Joseph maintains a tenuous balance between process and content. In the piece Hiding in Plain Sight, the silhouette of a female figure descends upside down against a cascade of outlined birds abstracted from children's clip art. In the wildly colored Co-opting Cryptic Signs, a stained background of gestural brushwork is visible through the negative shapes of tribal masks ganged from edge to edge. These masks, birds, and figures are recurring images in Joseph's vocabulary, drawn from widely disparate sources: artifacts, sculptures, ceremonial objects, and ephemera, often collected on his travels.
Joseph has always been intrigued with forms that carry an archetypal or universal charge capable of transcending the original cultural context. His elaborate methods embrace the transient nature of meaning, while modulating the ebb and flow of charge. Each step shifts context and each friction point creates new charge. These works are visual questions about how our beliefs filter experience and affect the accumulation of collective knowledge.
Since receiving a BFA in painting from Rhode Island School of Design in 1992, Bo Joseph (b.1969) has exhibited internationally and been honored with a Basil H. Alkazzi Award and fellowships in painting from Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. He has lectured at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, and RISD, where he has also taught drawing. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO; University of Maine Museum of Art, Bangor; The Springfield Museum of Art, OH; and the Guilin Art Museum, China. His work has appeared in Art in America, The New York Times, and on National Public Radio. Joseph lives and works in New York City.