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PETER MISSING - HUMANITY RECORDS - MISSING FOUNDATION - M7H


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ABOUT CYRIL

CNN and 19th century historical war paintings as a science: how many, where & when. The scientific aspect only becomes significant when the painting has everything confused. The repetitive faces of the combatants, the crouch of one rifleman aiming squarely at the first of a helicopter gunship battalion - war is an exercise in irony, from El Salvador to Gibraltar. This type of painting has some resemblance to Virtual Reality, if time had stopped. Peter Halley writes, "the use of Virtual Reality by artist does seem, at present, to serve some concrete, definable purpose, ironically not dissimilar to the way it is used by the military. Both artists and military planners employ virtual reality as an experimental space, a space in which ideas can be tested without real-world constraints. Both groups are also able to experiment with the use of Virtual Reality without regard for the viability of its commercial potential."

Helicopter gun-ships unleashing scorpion stinger missiles on Beirut's tourist hotels and F-16's dousing Napoleon era French Legionnaires with Tomahawk missiles is not fair, but war is seldom fair. Cyril is not particularly fond of fairness in his painting, as the gruesome parade of history solemnly gerrymandered in favor of French flag baring Hessians and helicopters slamming the shore for a beach front attack to the anthem of "Flight of the Bumblebee". He uses very little technology to create his historical military "scenes". The aristocracy knew less about battles than about the paintings of battles and 19th century paintings demonstrated this third hand knowledge, illuminating tableaus-vivants for war-room edification, delayed Polaroid surveillance slightly slower than the mail which came every fifteen minutes. As I write this, we are entering a region known for recent fundamentalist terrorism as well as hundreds of years of civil war, and the sparks that set the world on fire twice. Armageddon.

Cyril is not a political painter. He is a spy. His paintings investigate historical context in the finest manner: he is not a Post-Modern pretender but instead relies on the facts! A commodity whose prices seem to fluctuate like oil's in a crisis, at the better museums. When other artists submit rubber hose and Styrofoam brain sculptures as evidence of "deconstruction", he does the hard research, poring over military histories, the annals of Caesar, tableaux of naval battles. He paints against the present and in favor of history with the disgust of Caesar in the nascent turmoil of civil war. "Declare yourself!" greets you at Cyril's barricades. "Are you French? Are you a Communist?" "Which you like a croissant?"

Yet look out, these croissants are fire brands hurled by agitators and students, republicans facing the Tory guns. Aesthetic integrity saves the day, with piles of bodies draped in their chiffon shirts and bright blue velvet smoking jackets, dead with martinis still in their hands.

And to say the French do nothing, ha. I laugh at people who say that. "Ha."

Chris Kelley, NYC 1999

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