Billingham chooses to rework Hogarth’s moralistic tale in his signature lurid color palette and gestural brushwork. These painterly methods act as a lens through which the artist focuses on the details of Hogarth’s lavish depictions, drawing attention to the nuances of expression and ornamental details that comprise this comedy of errors.
Over the course of Billingham’s exhibition, this opulent installation is presented in concert with Hogarth’s original engravings. Each plate will be showcased for a three-week period and displayed in sequential order, offering a protracted art experience in which viewers may encounter a new episode in Hogarth’s saga of moral decline with each progressive museum visit. The dual presentation provides viewers the unique opportunity to journey through art history and directly observe how the quintessential image of British art has evolved.
Billingham’s adaptation of Georgian imagery into ever more brash visions with painterly emphasis both honors and defiles his sources. Hogarth was celebrated for his transgressive behavior, choosing to criticize his patrons by shining a light on the hedonism of the aristocracy. Following the example of the “father of British art,” Billingham makes his own revolutionary gesture by manipulating the imagery and making it his own. As he amps up the caricatured expressions of the figures, adds to the pomp of their regalia, and eschews proportions, Billingham subverts the didactic intention of his predecessor, upholding the rebellious spirit of British art.
The exhibition is presented as part of SCAD deFINE ART 2020, the university’s annual program of exhibitions, lectures, and performances held Feb. 18–20 at locations in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.