Battle for Cultivation

21 Jan — 11 Mar 2017 at the Envoy enterprises in New York, United States

13 FEBRUARY 2017
Battle for Cultivation, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Envoy Entreprises
Battle for Cultivation, Exhibition view. Courtesy of Envoy Entreprises

HRH P.R.'s work explores society’s obsession with sensationalism. Throughout his work, the artist argues that sensation poisons empathy and that it makes people numb and void of critical thought. Battle for Cultivation highlights three chapters of the artist’s work.

In the BGGH (By the Greater Grace of Hatred) series, the artist argues that by using humankind’s natural draw to sensation, the media bears responsibility for numbing its public by providing them with an avalanche of sensational (crime) articles. Because the sole purpose is increasing the company's profit margin, the actual cause of the crime, is never reported about nor is anything ever done about it.

Truly compelling, the work is composed with semi-transparent images of the victim, the crime scene and the murderer. They are strategically placed and merged into one portrait, creating a powerful, ghostly image. Within the series, RNPF, addresses the murder of movie star Ramon Novarro, an actor best known for his role opposite Greta Garbo in Mata Hari. SMLRW, pictures the murder of Sal Mineo, who co-starred with James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, while PPPGP addresses the murder of Italian film director, poet and writer Pier Paulo Pasolini. NOLK consists of nine pieces installed in a grid, with each piece being a direct reference to the murder of Ernst Röhm’s entire S.A. division of the Nazi party in 1934.

The artist focuses on everything that photography is incapable of telling you about its subjects. His pictures of murderers and the murdered are ambiguous. Perpetrators and victims merge, since it is difficult to distinguish one from another, yet they are never really anonymous.

Applying the same technique as in the BGGH series, MMO (male models objectified) is a reaction against a strongly resurging chauvinism. Objectifying women is perceived as normal as breathing. It is matter-of-fact to the point of banality. Objectifying men however is immediately equated with homosexuality. A prejudice, which is not applied to the objectification of women. With MMO, the artist addresses the double standard as well as the sensation caused by the use of nude male models in fashion spreads, which is severely criticized by many (male) commentators.

WTD2 (We Take a Dump too) consists of an installation of personally autographed photographs by male celebrities. Like moths to a flame, the artist traps those flocking to the portraits by taking advantage of the fact that the public is not allowed to touch artworks. Should the viewer be allowed to touch the photographs, on the reverse, they would find a full frontal nude shot of the subject pictured on the front. In what is basically a reversal of the message in the tale of the emperor's new clothes, the artist only offers the viewer the clothed image of the subject, leaving them to project the qualities they choose onto the person portrayed.

Like with the use of his tag (an acronym of his name), the artist’s works have acronyms for titles. He explains that acronyms predate the Christian era. They became more prevalent in the 20th century and have since become more commonly used trough text messaging on mobile phones. Like with a pictogram, they are intended to be recognized immediately, but according to the artist, their increased use is becoming a tool of separation, leaving a great number of people in the dark. HRH P.R. extends this thought to the way art is viewed. We are far removed from Matisse's statement: the first thing a painter should do is tear out his tongue.

Necessarily or unnecessarily, visual art is often accompanied by explanations, something the artist illustrates by using an acronym for a title. This automatically triggers the need for explanation. What does not need explanation is how HRH P.R. strives for truth and justice with a body of work that aims to foster communication with the viewer. The registering of images is manifested as a dateless act, while the iconography provides a different, deeper, more fully experienced relation to the object, that tells of loss, destruction, disappearance and controversy. The beauty of it all lies in the fact that, ultimately, the viewer is drawn into what could be described as, a complex poem.

HRH P.R. was born in 1981 in Dillon, S.C. After finishing High School, he moved to Saginaw, Michigan, where he currently lives and works. This is the artist's first solo exhibition.