Campus News

Dependence on oil focus of next installment of Screen Projects

 Split screen: one side features a working oil well, the other features the artist, J. Eric Simpson, bowing to the oil well

J. Eric Simpson. "Bow," 2017. Video. Courtesy of the artist

By RACHEL ADAMS

Published February 23, 2018

Society’s dependence on oil and the religious-like faith that some have in fossil fuels, even in the face of climate change, are the topics of the next installment of Screen Projects, the UB Art Galleries’ public art video initiative.

“Bow,” a video by Texas artist and UB alumnus J. Eric Simpson, will be on view Feb. 26 through March 31 outside the second-floor gallery in the UB Art Gallery in the hallway across from the elevator in the Center for the Arts.

Simpson grew up in conservative West Texas, which has influenced his artistic practice greatly — one that focuses on the intersection of philosophy, religion and consumerism. Exploring these ideologies and how they relate to American culture, he considers how they shape human behavior. In his artistic practice, he utilizes sculptural props related to these ideologies, as well as his own body in performances, videos and installations.

In “Bow,” Simpson splits the screen between himself and a working oil well — one of thousands that dot the West Texas landscape. The two move slowly, each bowing toward the one other in turn. The steady pace of the industrial oil well, with its rhythmic metallic hum, juxtaposed with the simplistic, yet loaded movement of Simpson’s body raises the issue of society’s utter dependence on oil, and the religious-like faith that some have in fossil fuels, even as the planet deteriorates on a daily basis.

“Bow” is directly in line with how Simpson describes his work: “a space to actively resist the system from within.”

Since 2013, Simpson has staged six solo exhibitions where he cross-pollinates his interests in the Protestant religion, monoculture crop production and consumer capitalism in the United States. He has exhibited his work in Buffalo — “Co-Modify” at Indigo Gallery (2017), “Amid/In WNY Epilogue” at Hallwalls (2017) and “The Measure of All Things” at UB (2016) — as well as at September Gallery in Hudson, New York (“Incident Report No. 102,” 2017). An upcoming show, “Transition and Transform,” will take place March 24 through May 26 at James Gallery in Hamilton, Ontario.

Simpson received his BFA at Texas Tech University in 2013 and his MFA from UB in 2017. He is currently working on a cotton farm in the high plains of West Texas.