New York, NY, October 6, 2016 – Joseph Gross Gallery is pleased to announce Cecil: A Love Story, a multimedia exhibition that examines the public's erratic moral compass through the guise of perceived aesthetic value in the animal kingdom via the story of Cecil the Lion.
On August 15, 2015 the world learned through a flurry of rage posts populating social media newsfeeds that the (until-then widely unknown) Zimbabwean icon Cecil the Lion was killed by a trophy hunter. The hunter responsible, an American dentist named Walter Palmer, had become the most hated man on the planet overnight.
Cecil: A Love Story scrutinizes the inconsistencies of society’s moral compass in relation to the perceived beauty of certain animals - namely, the lion. Through various media, the artist creates a dialogue surrounding how we regard and process atrocities committed against creatures deemed “beautiful” versus those considered “ugly” and delves into the dangerous anthropomorphizing tendencies that filter through the rose-tinted lenses of Western privilege. Why are the lives of animals that are considered superior in beauty such –as the lion– valued more than common or “ugly” animals like the pig or chicken? At the same time, the artist explores the suction of internet activism with the consideration of easily-digestible narratives: “Wealthy White Male Kills Defenseless, Beautiful Lion.”
Having worked with lions in Africa for a period of time, Grazi brings a different perspective on conservation and trophy hunting to the exhibition that contrasts the otherwise popular Western mentality surrounding preservation in “the Wild”. The Wild, or purely wild areas, the artist argues, are only still wild because humans allow them to exist in the form of protected parks, and those parks need both manpower and money to survive. According to Grazi, few people in Cecil’s native Zimbabwe call for the abolition of trophy hunting because of the millions of dollars it brings to the country’s struggling economy annually and the large number of jobs the sport creates. Privileged Americans say “don’t play God” when it comes to life and death in the Wild. But, Grazi states, the chicken nugget consuming, Walter Palmer-bashing Facebook activists who reacted so strongly to the death of Cecil are misinformed through the sticky, bloody irony of their privilege.
Further, the artist investigates what it is specifically about lions above all other creatures that has infatuated humans of all cultures throughout history. A timeless tradition and continuous obsession, with imagery carved into ancient churches to the modern suburban home – the exhibition begs the question “why are lions so special?” It dives deep into our collective consciousness to discover why Cecil, deemed superiorly “noble” and “Majestic” over all creatures and all lions, was deemed so extraordinary.
About the Artist:
Brooklyn born artist Joseph Grazi graduated with a BFA from the School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2006. He has since exhibited widely throughout NYC, with recent solo shows at (Art) Amalgamated and Joseph Gross Gallery. In addition to being included in major national and international collections, Grazi has been featured in widespread publications like Interview and Relapse Magazine.
Grazi utilizes a wide variety of media such as taxidermic animals, acrylics, wood and other materials, compositionally designed to neutralize fear through order and arrangement. Animal and human skulls, bones and taxidermic bats are only some of the elements that, when put together, can trigger fright and relief at the same time. His goal is to alleviate the most ancient fears through acknowledgment of individual power and control in the hope that such acknowledgment can lead to a better understanding of our place in the natural world.
Grazi currently lives and works in Chelsea, New York City, where he also moonlights as the frontman in the art rock band Ferrari Truck. (Deianira Tolema)
About Joseph Gross Gallery
Joseph Gross Gallery represents a stable of contemporary artists who exemplify the gallery’s commitment to pioneering new genres and mediums. Located in the Chelsea art district of New York City, the gallery is the second New York space founded by Joseph Gross, a dealer working in both primary and secondary markets since 2005. Gross also founded ArtNowSF in 2005 and ArtNowNY in 2012. Gross is known for curating exhibitions that challenge convention and bring the most cutting edge images and ideas by today’s most exciting contemporary artists to the fore.