Rez Dogs II: New Works by Chaz John

9 August - 15 October 2019
From the beginning of his 2018 artist’s residency with Ellsworth Gallery until now, Chaz John’s work has consistently toyed with the upending of established hierarchies -- whether animal or material -- to arrive at a place in which the rez dog reigns supreme, placed on a marble pedestal.

Rez Dogs II is Ellsworth’s second front-of-house exhibition for artist Chaz John -- and, like any sequel, it presents a rich and dynamic development in plot and theme. In addition to shifts in tonality and technique, John has increased the wide array of traditional media and approaches he employs. John’s work co-opts tropes of Western culture, often seen as empty symbols of class consumption, repurposing them in order to honor the rez dog. From the chiaroscuro and dynamism of his palette to the addition of gilded Rococo frames and ceramic figurines, John’s inspirations from the Western canon range from Caravaggio and through the Baroque, to the interior decoration of the landed gentry of British aristocracy.

Chaz John’s work breaks through this mere play with hierarchy and form to raise bigger questions, such as that of hyper-domestication. The wild, free-roaming rez dogs have been adopted ‘in to the family’ to such a degree that they are ensconced in the most bucolic and genteel of settings. Yet the rez dogs in John’s largest canvases remain defiant, wild at heart. Neither wild nor pets, they are somewhere in-between. There is a push-and-pull of domestication at play that mirrors questions surrounding the dynamics of assimilation. John notes that many of the compositions have an oddly post-apocalyptic air to them -- there are no people present in his work. Have the rez dogs assimilated to, and perhaps surpassed, the human? What might the landscape of a Rez Dogs III look like?