Thursday, June 26, 2014

Alumni Spotlight: New Orleans Artist and Two-Time UNO Alumnus Dan Tague

New Orleans artist and two-time University of New Orleans alumnus Dan Tague recently won a national fine arts contest, an honor he adds to a growing list of achievements as a new series of works depicting the almighty dollar grabs attention around the world.

"My work often has word plays in it," said Tague on Friday. "I was always fascinated with the idea of linguistics and words, where they come from, what do they mean?" he said. "I just like the idea of the fallacies of things people say. I like the idea of semantics and the way words can be twisted around, which always leads me into the idea of politics." 

New Orleans artist Dan Tague recently won the title Best Emerging Male Artist in the annual Art Comes Alive contest hosted by Art Design Consultants.With a work he calls "The American Standard," New Orleans artist Dan Tague recently won the title Best Emerging Male Artist in the annual Art Comes Alive contest hosted by Art Design Consultants in Cincinnati.

Tague learned this month that he had been named "Emerging Artist of the Year" in Art Comes Alive, an annual fine art contest and exhibit hosted by Art Design Consultants to honor "the brightest and best artists working in North America." Based in Cincinnati, ADC has shown and sold local and regional artist works for more than 20 years and placed artists' works in some of the most prestigious corporate and private collections in the country. Tague was selected for his award by a panel of art firms and curators, he said. The award was for an entire body of work in a series of photographs of handfolded dollar bills represented at the show with a work called "The American Standard." The series, which stemmed from a dramatic and frustrating seven-day episode on a rooftop in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, is both a political statement and enduring body of work.

Tague, who received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 2000 and a Bachelor of Arts degree from in 1997 from the UNO Fine Arts program, has previously received several top awards and residencies, including grants from The Joan Mitchell Foundation and Pollock Krasner Foundation, He has been an artist-in-residence at the Santa Fe Art Institute, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the La Napoule Art Foundation in France.

Tague, who is represented by the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in New Orleans' Warehouse District, has shown his work both nationally and internationally. Lately, his signature works have grabbed the attention of media from around the world.

On the Money with His Dollar-Bill Art Works

Tague made headlines last year with a work he prepared on commission for The New York Times. His work of art, a photograph of a carefully folded dollar bill, debuted before millions on August 8, 2013 when it ran alongside a Sunday editorial by chief editor David E. Sanger entitled "A Washington Riddle: What Is 'Top Secret'?"

Using a dollar bill, New Orleans artist Dan Tague created a signature work of art for an August 2013 article in The New York Times Sunday ReviewNew Orleans artist Dan Tague made headlines in the New York Times Sunday Review last August with a "Cyber Warfare," a commissioned work of a dollar bill carefully folded to reveal the words "public and private...cyber...warfare."

The opinion followed publication in The Guardian of classified material leaked by Edward J. Snowden and the conviction of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who allegedly shared 250,000 State Department cables and defense documents to WikiLeaks.

The Snowden leaks included the National Security Agency's playbook for XKeyscore, described by The New York Times as "a powerful surveillance program enabling the agency's analysts to monitor and trace Internet searches around the globe."

For the article, which appeared in The New York Times Sunday Review, Tague created a photograph of a carefully folded dollar bill — its corners and edges carefully manipulated to reveal a giant eye and the words "Public and Private," "Cyber," and "Warfare."

The iconic work, called "Cyber Warfare," is part of a series that inspires emotional responses from people on all ends of the political spectrum. 

Tague's "dollar bill works...are a hybrid of sculpture, photography and political statements," according to Jonathan Ferrara Gallery.

"Tague addresses the issues of our day by rendering visual equivalents by the most powerful means necessary. Installations, photography and artistic activism are his means of confronting and responding to the concerns of today's world."

Global Attention

His dollar-bill works have a poignant beginning. Tague did not evacuate during Hurricane Katrina and in the aftermath of the storm spent seven days on the rooftop of the Gold Seal Dairy on South Alexander Street, where his studio was, sleeping on the roof and enduring the blazing sun. A friend fortunately had brought a canoe as a joke. When the levees failed, it came in outrageously handy.

New Orleans artist Dan Tague, started creating dollar-bill works such as "Lest We Forget" following Hurricane KatrinaNew Orleans artist Dan Tague, started creating dollar-bill works such as "Lest We Forget" following Hurricane Katrina.

Tague recalls paddling through a "sea of shining debris" and entering a grocery store, which he describes as "a sea of junk food." He spent days and nights wondering "Why is nobody coming?" he said. He could see fires, hear gunshots. Army Rangers arrived and instead of helping, he said, stared victims down at the end of their M-16 rifles. Tague and his friends cooled themselves by escaping periodically into elevator shafts. Inside he could avoid the sun, but it was difficult to stay calm and keep the mind occupied, he said.

"I started folding dollar bills," the artist said. "I was starting to go crazy."

Noteworthy publications including ArtForum, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Seattle Times, have included Tague's work, according to the gallery. Tague was also featured in spring 2012 in Farrameh Media's Curated Collection Publication "For Which it Stands: Americana in Contemporary Art" with contemporaries such as Ai Weiwei, Shepard Fairey and Steve McQueen.

Nine of Tague's signature folded dollar bills were used to illustrate The New Yorker's annual Financial Issue in October 2012 and the dollar bill works have also been featured in British Vogue and Condé Nast's SModa, Spain.

In August 2013, the same month he created a commissioned piece for The Sunday Review in The New York Times, Tague also appeared on the BBC news channel in a major interview about his dollar bill works

"I still dream about the helicopters...whooping blades...circulating overhead...buzzing like locusts..." said Tague last week, explaining the rage and frustration that had him still folding dollar bills three months after the storm.

He was in an in-house residency at the University of California-Berkeley, after his home and studio were completely totaled by floodwaters. He folded and folded and folded again, creating his first work, "Osama Wars."

A work by Dan Tague called "Save the Coast" draws attention to coastal erosion and wetlands loss in Louisiana.A work by Dan Tague called "Save the Coast" draws attention to wetlands loss and coastal erosion in Louisiana.

When he returned to New Orleans in January 2007, he looked around and began thinking about "the extreme money issues about government still not being able to do anything about infrastructure because of being so tapped out at wars," he said. He started the series that has gained runaway success.

"Folded bills just happen to have a lot of traction because everything seems to be about money," he said last summer in an interview with the BBC. "I mean, that's how movies are rated. It's not how good they are. It's how much money they made. I mean, that's how everything seems to be rated these days," he said. "And I guess that's why it so heavily weighs on people's minds, to see these kinds of images and put their associations to it." 

He has folded dollar bills into works with messages such as "Trust No One," "Live Free Or Die" and "Reality Sucks." A work called "We the People" oddly became an icon for both the Occupied Movement and the Tea Party, he said. 

He folded "The End Is Near," when the economy crashed. Now he's working on positive messages, like "The Kids Are All Right," in hopes of spurring attention toward public education in the U.S.

The Prospect of Money

Tague works in various media: sculpture, video, photography, drawings, paintings, installations, performance. He has created works using crude oil and the Mobil Oil and BP Oil logos and transformed former U.S. Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln into everyday masked superheroes: "Citizen One" and "The Liberator."

"I usually put everything into this one piece, just like 'Make it or break it,'" Tague told the BBC. "So you have very diverse things, like the folded bills or the chandelier bombs or the oil painting with the Pinocchio nose and the eyes or even the Washington and the Lincoln superheroes, the everyday superheroes...with masks on and these abandoned building with an ax or a bat," he said, recalling various works. "But really the only series that I've ever remembered everything is these folded dollar bills."

Tague's work has appeared across the U.S. in venues, including Exit Art, DUMBO Arts Center, LMCC and Bronx River Arts Center in New York; The Soap Factory in Minneapolis; and Weisman Museum of Art at Pepperdine University, according to the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery. Key exhibitions appeared at Ballroom Marfa and VOLTA NY Art Fair in 2010 and PULSE Art Fair in Miami and Los Angeles in 2011.

Dan Tague's political dollar-bill series has appeared in collections and periodicals around the world.Dan Tague's dollar-bill series has appeared in collections and periodicals around the world.

His work also appears in numerous public and private collections, including: The Whitney Museum of Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation, collector Beth Rudin DeWoody, Roll Global Collection, curator Dan Cameron, the Louisiana State Museum, collector Virginia Speed, Sanam Vaziri Quraishi Foundation and the West Collection of Contemporary Art.

Tague was also one of the first artists chosen by curator Dan Cameron to participate in Prospect 2.0 Biennial, a large-scale international art exhibition that attracts tens of thousands of visitors and adds millions of dollars to the city economy every year, organizers said in a statement.

Prospect New Orleans was designed to be a great international exhibition, rivaling grand shows such as the Venice Biennale and the Bienal de São Paulo, the statement said. The aim of Prospect New Orleans is to showcase new artistic practices from around the world and contribute to the city's and region's cultural economy. The first event, held in 2009, showcased new artistic practices of 81 leading international contemporary artists at more than 24 venues across New Orleans and now the show returns biannually to the city.

Tague's Prospect 2.0 installation, Department of Civil Obedience, was on exhibit in the Contemporary Arts Center from October 20, 2011 to January 29, 2012. His work is currently on view at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery for his solo exhibition entitled The Almighty Dollar, as well as the Dishman Art Museum in Beaumont, Texas.

Tague, who has shown his work frequently at the UNO St. Claude Gallery, recently finished a commission for Burton Snowboards, in which he collaborated with the manufacturer to create a new clothing line, he said. In August, he will put on a solo exhibition called "I Am: Money Matters," at the Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. The show is curated by Michele Bosak.

He is now preparing works of art surrounding themes of gun violence, wealth, and injustice for three concurrent exhibitions in New Orleans during Prospect New Orleans 3.0, which will be on view from October 25, 2014 through January 25, 2015 at 15 venues across New Orleans, Tague said.

The October exhibitions are satellites of Prospect 3: New Orleans. They include installations at Treo Gallery on Tulane Ave.; "Guns In the Hands of Artists," a group show at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery; and "The Chapel of The Almighty Dollar," a major outdoor installation on St. Claude Ave., including a pyramid-shaped chapel.

The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar

The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar will be a 22-foot pyramid designed in the style of the pyramid seen on the back of a dollar bill. At its apex, where the "eye" would usually be, will be a four-foot frosted plexiglass structure with a rotating light inside that will illuminate the symbol of a dollar bill, Tague said.

"The Almighty Dollar" is the centerpiece of a 22-foot installation at Prospect 3.0 called "The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar."In October, Dan Tague will unveil "The Chapel of the Almighty Dollar" at the international art exhibit Prospect 3.0., to be held in New Orleans. The outdoor installation is a 22-foot pyramid that doubles as a contemplation space. Inside is the work "The Almighty Dollar" and two others designed to make viewers consider the meaning and value of money in American culture.

"As you walk inside the pyramid, you will see three 10-foot tall dollar bill works that are mural structures: 'The Almighty Dollar'...'The Pursuit of Happiness' on the right, 'The Root of All Evil' on the left," said Tague. "As you sit in the chapel, or as you enter, your eyes adjust."

The dimly lit dollar bill works will slowly reveal themselves to viewers adjusting their eyes in the dark chapel, Tague said. As they take in the pictures of money, background music by Heathcliff Haley will play. Haley, a musician and a popular chef in the city, is sampling the Gregorian Chant, "Desi Irae," with a tribal beat "to summon spirits of prosperity," said Tague. "For the bass, he has huge stacks of change dropping onto the raised wooden floor."

Haley's moving installation will circulate stacks of coins from floor to ceiling via an elaborate rigged electrical structure, explained Tague.

The pyramid designed by artist and contractor John Henry Kelley "will be a pretty large structure. It holds about eight people," Tague said. "I didn't want more than that. It's really meant to be a reflection place...kind of a nondenominational chapel of wealth.

He plans to begin raising money on Kickstarter soon, promising certain donors photo etchings of one of the three handfolded dollar bills that will appear in the chapel, he said.  

"As I was considering the idea of wealth, I think it always kinds of addresses some kind of advantage," said Tague, who wants people to enter his installation and think, for a moment about the role of money in our lives. "Just the contemplation of anything monetary, whether it's wealth, whether it's value, kind of bring everything to the table."

An Appreciative Audience at UNO

Tague's success has been heralded at home, where colleagues at his alma mater sang his praises.

"Dan Tague is the embodiment of a success story. I suppose in some regard his life reads more like a great movie screenplay," said UNO Fine Arts Department Chair Cheryl Hayes. "He is a hallmark example of what a creative mind, burgeoned with determination and the benefit of a excellent education, can accomplish."

The UNO Fine Arts Department has been the academic home of many colleagues, over several decades, who graduated from Ivy League universities and other prestigious institutions, said Hayes. They have positively impacted the lives of countless students and the University recognizes their achievements with pride.

Tague makes it especially easy, she said.

"Despite his fame and numerous accolades, Dan has remained an approachable, and extraordinarily deferential man, and one who constantly encourages students to continue their studies at the University of New Orleans," said Hayes.

"It has certainly been to our benefit that Dan's accomplishments have placed our university in the spotlight, but more importantly, it is his consistent promotion of the opportunities that exist for anyone who aspires to achieve their educational goals to recognize the University of New Orleans as their first and best opportunity that has won him our undying gratitude and our sincerest friendship."

Hayes expressed delight that Tague is the 2014 ACA Male Emerging Artist of the Year.

"It is most gratifying to know that his continued recognition is in keeping with his voracious artistic practice, his loyalty to the University of New Orleans and his continued exemplary example to aspiring and minds."


Watch The Interview

Dan Tague: Artists Folds Dollar Bills to Make Money Talk, BBC Interview, Aug. 26, 2013
Cash Rules Everything Around Me, The Times-Picayune

Read More

Dan Tague, Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
Prospect New Orleans
Hidden Messages on Dollar Bills by Dan Tague,Bored Panda
Dan Tague Shows That Money Can Speak, Art Threat
At Dan Tague exhibition, follow the money to provocative themes on power, The Washington Post
The Cost of Living Like This: Dan Tague's Dollar-Bill Art, Dangerous Minds
Dan Tague: Plates + Slides, Installation


Learn About the UNO Fine Arts Department

UNO Fine Arts Department
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UNO St. Claude Gallery Hosts Two More Spring 2014 MFA Thesis Exhibitions
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