Charlie Billingham

'A Rake’s Progress'

British artist Charlie Billingham presents a site-specific installation within the SCAD Museum of Art lobby, in which he pays homage to the museum’s permanent collection holdings of William Hogarth’s historic engraving series A Rake’s Progress (1735).

Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress consists of eight sequential artworks that tell the story of Tom Rakewell, a reckless individual who after receiving his inheritance, yields to the vices of aristocratic indulgence. From the pub to the brothel to Bedlam, Rakewell finds himself undone by his own prodigal ways.

Signature image for Charlie Billingham exhibition
Charlie Billingham, "Duke's Meadow," oil on linen, 74.8" x 62.9", 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Travesía Cuatro, Madrid.

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 Victorian 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.

About the artist

Billingham has exhibited his work internationally, including recent solo presentations Cornucopia at Museo de Arte Zapopan, Mexico; Charlie Billingham at The Rachofsky House, Dallas, Texas; Desire Path at Travesía Cuatro, Madrid, Spain; and The Comforts of Bath at Morán Morán, Los Angeles, California. His work has been exhibited in numerous group presentations including Jeunes Artistes en Europe: Les Métamorphose at Fondation Cartier, Paris; Plant Scenery of the World at Inverleith House, Edinburgh, Scotland; The Coverly Set at Sargent's Daughters, New York; A Scratching Not a Biting at Bureau, New York; and New Order: British Art Today at Saatchi Gallery, London.

Credits

A Rake’s Progress is curated by Ariella Wolens, assistant curator of SCAD Exhibitions.

Museum Admission

The exhibition is free for museum members and SCAD students, faculty, and staff with a valid SCAD Card and is open to the public with the cost of museum admission.

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