When you enter Joe Forte’s exhibit at this years Spring/Break Art Show in Culver City, it’s the walls that confront you first. Vast, barren landscapes with no roads, no resources, no technology and no visible means of salvation, just emptiness and the absence of possibility.
“I just got tired of the near-constant cycle of doom and gloom and the helplessness it implies. That barren, hopeless landscape was my starting point”.
For his solo exhibit within the greater Spring/Break Art Show during Los Angeles Art Week, Forte, a Los Angeles collage artist and produced Hollywood filmmaker, proposed a series of “road signs” that not only break up this relentless landscape, but proclaim, with naked exuberance — a positive view of our future. Combining collage, text, painting and sculpture, these signs form an almost subversive mantra that Forte seductively employs to goad his viewer into questioning what they chose to see in a landscape of relentless bad news and, more importantly, where they will place their own focus.
It’s this sense of agency which makes Forte’s headlines worthy of note.
“I started out as a copywriter in New York, so I love a good headline spurring you to action. I was thinking about those inspirational business posters from the 90s or one-word aphorisms like “breathe”, which, however useful, seemed to lack any kind of personal initiative and offered a kind of magic. What I think gives my slogans their bite is that they are embedded with the notion that change comes only through doing the work and that the person who has to do that work is you.”
Like Robert Indian’s “LOVE” of the 1960s, Forte’s loud, kinetic, wildly imagined signage features xuberant maxims that emulate messaging in the public space, but are devoid of religious or commercial affiliation.
“I think of the signs as free, open-source code, hopefully reversing social media’s anger-generating algorithms to lead you toward something more empowering.”
Forte’s prescription is as accessible as it is easy to remember. “THE ANSWER IS OUT THERE” “NOW IS THE TIME TO GIVE IT YOUR ALL” “YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE” “PERSISTENCE” within disrupting the dire landscape that stretches out behind them and offering a practical approach to claiming the future.
“Taken together, the slogans suggest an alternate choice… an inner dialogue that I think is crucial to harness if any of us is to move forward in life. But moving forward is also a struggle and I think the mantra forms an irrefutable logic that: All our problems are solvable (THE ANSWER IS OUT THERE) if we are willing to act ( NOW IS THE TIME TO GIVE IT YOUR ALL) and commit to that action (PERSISTENCE) with the belief that persistence and action can bring change (YOU CAN GET THERE FROM HERE).
Loud, colorful, hand-made and featuring a wild array of street papers and cultural ephemera, Forte’s pieces, however, are not just meant to be viewed from afar.
Closing in on the work brings each piece into sharper focus as Forte is also working here with the filmmaker’s eye he developed at NYU, creating a weave of storylines that relate back to the works overall themes and coalesce around bold text.
“I think in terms of close ups and wide shots, and also characters and themes. But unlike with a film where the filmmaker directs the eye, the viewer directs their own eye and is free to engage and “edit” the story that each individual piece is telling.”
As to our collective future, Forte has no doubt. “People are free to see the future as they want. If we are living in a society that has lost it’s hope and lost its idealism, then that’s a good thing to find out and that will be the value of the exhibit. For me, how you face the future is a choice, and the repeating thoughts running around in your head play a huge role in that. Having a reliable mantra is a great lifeboat to have when you’re facing rough seas”.
Or a vast, barren desert.
ABOUT SPRING?BREAK ART SHOW
The New York Times says, “Spring/Break doesn’t feel like a fair so much as a crowded, exhilarating, madcap art extravaganza.” Artnet described it as “the upstart cool kid’s fair.” It runs February 15-19th at 5880 Adams Blvd. in Culver City. More info at
Confronting the viewer with boisterous, innovative “road signs” expressing naked exuberance about tomorrow, Los Angeles collage artist Joe Forte disrupts the landscape of current doomsday cultural narratives to ask his viewers to contemplate the way they go about creating their future.
ABOUT JOE FORTE
Joe Forte is a multi-disciplinary artist. He studied filmmaking at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where he began developing the graphic/storytelling approach he brings to his work. As a painter, Forte studied with Los Angeles Artist Joe Blaustein and has shown widely in Los Angeles. Solo shows include “Men” at Castelli Art Space (2019), “The End of Paper” (2017), and “The End of Paper” (2015) at the Center For The Arts, Eagle Rock. In 2007 he had his first solo show at the Regent Gallery in L.A.’s
downtown arts district, followed by a second solo show in 2008 at Bergamont Station’s J ames Grey Gallery in Santa Monica. Forte has participated in numerous group shows and has contributed works to charitable events such as the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock Annual Art Auction and “New Day”, Bellrock Media’s relief benefit for Japan curated by Henry Lien of the Glass Garage Gallery (2011). As a working filmmaker Forte is the writer of Firewall staring Harrison Ford and the director of the 2016 documentary The Man Who Saved Ben-Hur which streams on Amazon.
ABOUT LISA LEVY
Lisa Levy is a conceptual artist, comedic performer and (self-proclaimed) psychotherapist. Her visual art has been widely exhibited at many venues including The New Museum, The Bronx Museum, SPRING/ BREAK Art Fair, The Pulse Art Fair, The Brooklyn Academy of Music as well as many galleries and art fairs. Lisa recently curated a booth “Playing With Dolls” recently at the New York version of SPRING/ BREAK Naked Lunch.