The work in this portfolio is comprised of selections from my recent exhibition and performance at the Kasa Gallery in Istanbul called “Ikon”. This project explores the power invested in iconic images within contemporary culture and society, and consists of three interlinked parts: (1) “Iconoclast” drawings (2) “Iconostasis” installation of drawings, and (3) “Icon”, a performance.
“Ikon” questions uses of signs that blur the boundaries between culture, politics and religion. On May 1, 2012 while hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of Istanbul to speak out and demonstrate, I created a silent action by removing political statements hung on the city’s walls along with posters of popular culture events. The “Iconoclast” works were created by burning, deforming, and drawing upon these layers of iconic imagery from everyday social and political life, exploring the way certain signs become recycled again and again through different contexts. Highlighting the artist’s role as both image maker and iconoclast who challenges established dogmas and conventions, these drawings were eventually printed as posters and hung as a site-specific installation on the very same walls of the city from which the original material came.
An iconostasis is an icon-covered screen that symbolically represents the threshold between the worlds of the seen and unseen, and is a central feature in Eastern churches. Similarly, the “Iconostasis” installation combines multiple drawings into a constructed reality where various forms rendered in positive and negative emerge out of darkness, creating a visual push-pull between minimal black surface and lens-like realism.
The “Icon” performance parallels the two installations, utilizing many of the same symbols, both visually in the form of banners, flags and placards reproducing images from the drawings, and a spoken text which interweaves excerpts from Arab Spring speeches into a poetic discourse on the drastic political changes of today.
Artist Bio / CV
Jeffrey Baykal-Rollins is an American artist living in Istanbul for the past decade. His drawing-based works utilize a variety of media including painting, photography, video, installation, performance, and poetry. His recent exhibition and performance at the Kasa Gallery in Istanbul called “Ikon” is the subject of a forth-coming book published by Leonardo Journal and MIT Press, with essays by Ernesto Pujol, et al. Baykal-Rollins is the director of “Silsila”, a performance art and social sculpture collective, and his project “Whose Silence Are You?” was acquired in 2012 by Istanbul’s SALT Museum for its permanent collection.
Born in Santa Barbara, California in 1966, Jeffrey Baykal-Rollins completed a BFA in visual art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Glasgow School of Art in Scotland, and received an MFA from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His drawings and paintings appear on the covers of dozens of books, and have been featured in the Turkish motion picture “Kucuk Kiyamet”. Having taught art at the University of California, Baykal-Rollins now teaches intermedia at Bosphorus University and visual art at Robert College in Istanbul.