The unrelenting marketing of terror, war and societal collapse to the American people is the primary subject of Wayne Coe’s satirical work featured in an exhibition at Bert Green Fine Art in Los Angeles this past summer. Meg Linton, Director of Otis’s Ben Maltz Gallery and Public Programs, brings it home.
Creating a narrative installation using varied formats like storyboards, production stills, effects shots, advertisements, and theater lobby standees, Coe paints scenes from the attack on the Twin Towers, the ensuing aftermath in Afghanistan and the on-going war in Iraq. Coe pokes a sharp stick into the eye of the media tornado that needs to keep feeding and fueling the twenty-four hour news and entertainment cycle. With the increasing dissolution of the barriers dividing editorial, advertisement, and entertainment departments with our primary news channels, major and minor stories of the day are held hostage to commercial breaks and are often drawn and quartered into mini cliff hangers between adverts for technical colleges and dish soap. Playing to shareholders’ interests, “slow news days,” political mixed messaging, and Hollywood are the fodder for Coe’s remarkable body of work.
Coe addresses the events of 9/11 because it provided “Big Media” infinite material for news programs, talk shows, book deals, documentaries, docudramas, mini-series, action movies and more; it’ll keep Hollywood working for years. In his own words from his artist’s statement, “Everyone I meet says, ‘You know they'll make a movie of 9/11!’ But ‘they’ already have. Was the camera that filmed the events of 9/11 the eye of God or the cynical eye of the devil? Was the camera impartial? And was the editor who said, 'cut to this victim or that missing building' an artist, journalist or propagandist? In media's hands horrific disaster turns to entertainment, victims to heroes, humiliation into patriotism—this is myth’s primal function.”
Having worked in Hollywood as a storyboarder, poster designer, creator of special effects sequences and as a director for his own feature length movie entitled “Grim Prairie Tales,” Coe understands the inherent problem framing something in a camera lens—it turns whatever you are looking at into entertainment. In his American Hero: The 9/11 Movie, series, Coe has illustrated storyboards for a fictional film starring Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwartzenegger, George Clooney, Denzel Washington, Brittany Spears, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins with all the explosive intimate, and sentimental shots typical of a blockbuster disaster film. Coe read dozens of oral accounts of the attack before sketching out the action sequences for his cinematic feature. One of the key paintings in the series is “Jumper Stunt Shoot.” It shows the façade of one tower, with the stunt person flying through the air, the inflated air pillow at the bottom of the board and a silhouette of the camera crew recording the scene. There are interior and exterior scenes of a Tower being pierced by a plane. One large board shows the Tower being engulfed in a rising billow of flames and debris. The close ups show the stars in dramatic scenes of rescue and death.