Dover artist Fox let loose at Biggs, Delaware State University

An exhibition of acclaimed artist Clark V. Fox entitled “Icon Chains” is currently on display at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover. The exhibit includes his pop-influenced representations of iconic subjects such as George Washington and Mr. Peanut. A second exhibition of Mr. Fox’s work, entitled “Typology,” is on display at Delaware State University’s Jason Library. (Submitted photos)

An exhibition of acclaimed artist Clark V. Fox entitled “Icon Chains” is currently on display at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover. The exhibit includes his pop-influenced representations of iconic subjects such as George Washington and Mr. Peanut. A second exhibition of Mr. Fox’s work, entitled “Typology,” is on display at Delaware State University’s Jason Library. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — The Biggs Museum of American Art is presenting two major exhibitions on the life and work of artist Clark V. Fox. A 50-year veteran of the New York and Washington art worlds, and currently a Dover resident, these exhibitions focus on the artist’s playful subjects, illustrating controversial storylines within paintings from 1966 to the present.

The larger exhibition, entitled “Icon Chains,” is on view until Jan. 22 at the Biggs Museum of American Art on Federal Street in Dover. To commemorate the current election period, this exhibition features works created by Mr. Fox since 2000. The museum’s galleries are covered in a rumpus display of colorful characters drawn from American history, product designs, cartoon characters and famous personalities. Behind these paintings, however, lies messages of economic inequality, corporate greed and social injustice.

The Biggs Museum has also partnered with Delaware State University to also host a second exhibition on Mr. Fox entitled “Typology.”

This exhibition, on view until Nov. 16 at the campus Art Center Gallery within the Jason Library, features the artist’s earliest works of the 1960s through the 1980s.

Mr. Fox’s first artistic successes came from highly stylized architectural studies of windows and facades he created from his travels around America. Imbued with an eerie emptiness, these paintings nonetheless bring up ideas about the people who built and used the pictured spaces.

Mr. Fox was born Michael V. Clark in 1946. After finishing an undergraduate degree at the Pratt Institute and the Corcoran School of the Arts, the artist developed lifelong relationships with major art institutions in Washington, including the Corcoran, the National Gallery, the Hirschhorn, the Phillips Collections and American University. His work has been collected by many of those prestigious institutions as well as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art in New York and even the Delaware Art Museum.

Mr. Fox was very heavily influenced by the study of artistic accomplishment before him. He is a devoted student of

Artist Charles V. Fox, center, stands with Ryan Grover, curator at the Biggs Museum of American Art, and Jennifer Gunther, the organizer of the exhibition at Delaware State University, in front of a portion of Mr. Fox’s exhibit “Icon Chains” at the Biggs. Mr. Fox will be at the museum Saturday for a Meet the Artist Tour. It is free with museum admission. (Submitted photo)

Artist Clark V. Fox, center, stands with Ryan Grover, curator at the Biggs Museum of American Art, and Jennifer Gunther, the organizer of the exhibition at Delaware State University, in front of a portion of Mr. Fox’s exhibit “Icon Chains” at the Biggs. Mr. Fox will be at the museum Saturday for a Meet the Artist Tour. It is free with museum admission. (Submitted photo)

art history and has been extremely impressed with the unique painting techniques of artists such as Édouard Manet and Georges Seurat. His study of Marcel Duchamp was a revelation to him — an artist could borrow the images around them and change their symbolic meaning to suit their own purposes.

Also, he marveled at the complex stories that could be told by assembling disparate found objects into provocative compositions like the ones Mr. Fox encountered with Joseph Cornell, Mr. Fox’s earliest work emerged from an artistic movement called the Washington Color School of the 1950s through the 60s.

He studied under and found inspiration from such well-known DC abstract artists as Gene Davis (1920-85), Morris Louis (1912-62) and Kenneth Noland (1924-2010). He is considered a second-generation artist within this school along with Sam Gilliam (b. 1933) and Rockne Krebs (1938-2011). These artists largely worked in a geometric-inspired abstraction that emphasized the relationship between contrasting colors. Mr. Fox’s own work evolved past these non-objective influences to tell stories about human experiences.

After his initial success exhibiting architectural studies, Mr. Fox spent more time in New York City. His work expanded to incorporate pop-influenced representations of iconic subjects such as George Washington and Mr. Peanut.

Based on Gilbert Stuart’s well-known portrait of President Washington, which was eventually featured on the dollar bill, Mr. Clark’s interpretation is symbolic of American accomplishment. Conversely, Mr. Peanut is emblematic of American corporate greed and the challenges of capitalism, a type of nemesis of the idealism inherent in the Washington images. Given these underlying meanings, Mr. Fox’s work began to demonstrate a battle between good and evil.

As Mr. Fox’s success grew internationally, beyond the art markets of New York and Washington, his attitude towards gallery representation and the expectations of the commercial art world soured. He opened a nonprofit experimental exhibition gallery in DC called the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA DC). From this gallery, Mr. Fox was able to further explore his own socially critical positions within painting as well as to feature works by over 3,000 of his contemporaries.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fox was becoming known as the “Godfather of Underground Art” for exhibiting the work of and alongside a large community of street artists-artists with origins in graffiti arts, spray paint and political activism such as, Ron English, Shepard Fairey and Kaz.

Mr. Fox’s work began to feature an ever-growing corral of characters, such as Abraham Lincoln and Chairman Mao, each with complex layers of positive and negative symbolic meaning. During this period, Mr. Fox also began series of paintings that directly confronted the oppression of vulnerable populations. Mr. Fox’s “One Hundred and Ten Oranges: NAFTA Oranges” was a critique of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement and its negative effects upon migrant labor.

21dsn-fox-4In addition, Mr. Fox painted portraits of historically significant Native Americans to bring greater attention to the historically poor treatment of his own cultural heritage. The artist’s parents were both Cherokee even though Mr. Folx grew up in a household that hid their native ancestry to assimilate into mainstream culture. Mr. Fox’s paintings of Native American themes protest a long history of oppression, broken federal treaties and forced migration by elevating indigenous leaders and critiquing the misappropriation of tribal symbolism. The artist used painting to describe his own position within his ancestry.

Along his varied artistic career, Mr. Fox has tracked his own personal growth through a large range of artist signatures: Michael Clark, Clark, Clark and Co., Clark & Hogan and now simply Clark Fox. Each signature frames a different period in his life while often giving voice to a new series of artistic subjects: still life, street art, portraiture, appropriation, etc. Other artists have also practiced under multiple monikers, and Mr. shares with them the same interest to let the celebrity status of an artist be less important than the artwork itself.

“Icon Chains” and “Typology” are accompanied by a wide range of public programs, funded by the Delaware Humanities Forum, at both the Biggs Museum of American Art and Delaware State University.

Mr. Fox will be directly involved with most of the public engagements to impart his personal accounts of artists in his past including Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Thomas Downing, Gene Davis and many more.

His first appearance will be Saturday for a gallery tour at the Biggs Museum. Mr. Fox is joining a panel of several DSU professors to discuss the intersection of art and politics on Nov. 3. Other speakers include Collette Gaitor of the University of Delaware and Michael Kalmbach of the Creative Vision Factory discussing artist within activist movements on Nov.19.

In addition, Mr. Fox’s unique and playful aesthetic of social activism will be the focus of family-friendly activities within the Biggs Museum’s Child HELP Foundation Gallery.

Visit www.biggsmuseum.org to confirm event dates and times.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ryan Grover is the curator of the Biggs Museum of American Art.

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