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Portrait of the Artist as a (Very) Young Man Part 3


by Robert Studwood Hues, Famous Art Critic

Chris Auman 4th Grade
Wide lapels and plaid — Auman was at the forefront of fashion.

 

Art is Dead 1978-1981

"It's the end, the end of the Seventies/It's the end, the end of the century" So sang the Ramones in 1980 as the 'Me Decade' came to a close. The '80s had arrived and it seemed as if the future was finally now. It was in this transitional period that Auman cast off the political and often times polarizing themes of his past work and concentrated instead on scenes of nature, space, outlaw truckers and the savage ballet that is American football.

Deary Diary

In 1979, Auman was told by doctors that he was near-sighted. It was a devastating blow to the young artist who was forced to wear prescription eyeglasses in order to work. Auman addresses this tragedy in a diary entry from that period.

Dear Diary by Chris Auman

Dear Diary Chris Auman

"We cooked outside," wrote Auman in a diary entry in 1979, "but we did not eat outside." Auman would often find himself struggling with the seemingly contradictory and confusing nature of the adult world. In another entry, Auman reveals that he has joined a club, but cautions that "it's not much of a club because we just run around the playground." What then was the purpose of joining this club? Auman seems to be wondering. It would be the last time he would become a member of any club. Except for the Cub Scouts and a few others. 

Diary excerpt Chris Auman

The Natural Order of Things

Camp may be considered high art among the East Coast Literati, but in 1979, Auman was more concerned with campgrounds than that particular aesthetic sensibility. Depicting simple, woodsy portraits of the American Midwest, Auman was searching for truth in the natural beauty of the world. He also went camping a lot.

The Forest & The Trees 

The Forest and the Trees by Chris Auman
The Forest & The Trees, 1979 Crayon & Paper


If Auman's series of nature portraits from the late 70s are any indication of his state of mind during that period, he seemed to have tired with the controversial political content he took on in his previous work. As he told INTERVIEWED Magazine in 1979:

"Nature is political. Deers and bears are political. Rabbits, squirrels... bats! They're political animals! The order man imposes on the natural world with well a ordered campsite is a political act."

The public then as now could not wrap their heads around this concept which is unsurprising.


Campgrounds

Campgrounds by Chris Auman
Campgrounds, 1979 Crayon and Pen

Deer and Bat Are Friends

Deer and Bats are Friends by Chris Auman
Deers & Bats, 1979 Crayon and Notebook Paper

Deer and bats are not natural enemies and neither are they friends, but following an 'odd couple" theme Auman had previously explored in his prose with "The Deer and The Bear" in 1976 (see below), he continued to question these relationships in his art.

War in Space

As one decade ended and another began, Star Wars raged on and Battlestar Galactica plotted a course into the public psyche. 

 

Battles
Battlestar 1, 1979 Pencil & Crayon

 

Battlestar 2 by Chris Auman
Battlestar 2, 1979 Pencil & Crayon

 

Space Battle by Chris Auman
Space Battle 1, 1979 Magic Marker & Pencil

 

Space Battle 2 by Chris Auman
Battlestar 2, 1979 Pencil

 

Spaceship by Chris Auman
Spaceship, 1979 Ballpoint Pen & Colored Pencil


The Savage Ballet

The Savage Ballet Attacked by critics as well as admirers, for abandoning his previous political statements in favor of the more pedestrian themes of sports and TV shows, Auman defied them all by insisting he did no such thing. As he told INTERVIEWED magazine in a 1979 profile, "Football is political. When a man feels that he must tackle another man in order to take back what he feels is his by right, in this case a football, that is a political statement. Go Bears!"

Bears v. Packers

Bears Beat Packers by Chris Auman
Bears vs. Packers, 1980 Crayons and Paper 

Football's warring tribes, the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers, were a source of fascination for the young artist. Did the Packers actually think they were the better team? "It's an absurd premise that needs to be explored on the page," observed Auman in 1980.

Colts v. Dolphins by Chris Auman
Dolphins vs. Colts, 1980 Crayons and Paper 

The juxtaposition of masculine images like football players with the colorful, childlike images of balloons confounded both art critics and football fans alike. As Auman told the magazine, Political Football in 1980:

"Football is political. When a man feels that he must tackle another man in order to take back what he feels is his by right, in this case a football, that is a political statement. Go Bears!"


"We Got a Big 'Ol Convoy"

At the end of the 70s, CB radios and rebellious trucker convoys traveled the country's collective imagination as Bo & Luke Duke evaded the Lawmen of Hazzard County. This outlaw mystique would influence Auman for the next several years as he attempted to answer questions that cut to the core of human nature. "Just what is it about BJ McKay and his best friend Bear that fills Sheriff Lobo with such uncontrollable rage?" Auman asked ARTfull Magazine in 1981. "Maybe, we're not supposed to know."

Breaker One Nine

Keep on Truckin' by Chris Auman 
Breaker One Nine, 1981 Marker, Crayon & Pencil

Three Cop Car Pile Up 

Three Car Pileup
Three Cop Car Pile Up, 1981 Pencil & Notebook Paper

Next

By the mid 1970s, Auman was bored with the art world and suspicious of an audience that simply did not understand his work. He would turn his talents to literary pursuits, experimenting with different forms and genres, never fully gaining acceptance or recognition in this new medium either.

Portrait of the Artist as a (Very) Young Man Part 4: Literary Pursuits 1976-1979