William Norton’s large-scale paintings at The Boiler – ELM Foundation evoke imagery of oppression and protest through gestural graphic marks and bold color on recycled vinyl advertisements as canvas. “We are always being sold something in this age of hyper-ventilating propaganda. And there is just enough of the advertising image left over to titillate the viewers’ eyeballs,” Norton says.
Norton utilized the formidable presence of the ancient coal fired boiler furnace as a backdrop to a monochrome drawing and a pair of yellow umbrellas on top, alluding to the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement where protestors opened umbrellas to protect from the police’s pepper spray and tear gas. On top of the boiler, a tattered Chinese umbrella with a Police Riot Helmet stands on a tall thin pedestal, where it is lit from within with dramatic effects. The eye draws from the floor to the ceiling.
Chasing the Nuclear Dragon combines drawing and sculpture. This is the artist’s take on the nuclear devastation in the Second World War. Norton, who grew up in the military as a child in Japan, recalls his horror when he read the book Hiroshima —“the images from the document have stayed with me forever”, he says.
Garnered from news sources, mainly from video clips referencing police forces in various riots around the world, the exhibition overall reflects Norton’s take on how governments around the globe are using their militarized police forces to consolidate their authoritarian and dictatorial control over the populous. The drawings for instance—some made with charcoal, and some painted in vivid colors—refer to the anonymous nature of authoritarian power: bulletproof outerwear and helmets with faceplates.
All photos courtesy of the artist.
William Norton, Styx & Stones: It’s Raining Fascists
Solo Exhibition by William Norton, curated by Wade Bonds The Boiler at ELM Foundation, 191 North 14th Street Brooklyn, NY March 25th – April 15th, 2023