Joel received his MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1992 and his BFA from Tufts University in 1990. He received a discharge from the United States Marine Corps in 1984. He was born in Port Arthur, Texas in 1966. He is the son of a police sergeant and the grandson of a Baptist preacher. He has gone to great lengths to return lost wallets to their rightful owners. He still has the nametag he was issued at his first job, and he doesn't spend a lot of time on his hair. He lives in Urbana, Illinois with his wife and two daughters, where he is currently an Associate Professor in the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
He is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago.
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–about Alleys and Parking Lots [a collaboration with Jason Creps]
Solo show at Monique Meloche Gallery – September 2012
We went to work in alleys and parking lots – spaces connected to and observable from roads – but much slower, harder, and less fluid.
They are public spaces that have an oddly private flavor. Their dullness and banality serve to make them simultaneously visible and invisible. These slower spaces, these gray areas, occasionally offer moments of cover for travelers. There they can find a place to pause, park, load, unload, shift, rest, argue, make out, piss, cry, vomit or scream without necessarily being stopped, bothered, questioned – or even seen.
We looked for fissures and vacancies, roadside spaces we could take advantage of, and then wrote narratives and built sculptures to fill them. We also wrote stories and then searched (sometimes exhaustively) to find locations with the right conditions for those characters. The sculptures are declarations, and they take possession of their site, however briefly, with confidence, humor, urgency, and sometimes aggression.
The installations guide interpretation of the sites, undermining them fundamentally with suggested threats or glorifying them with an infusion of pride or implying the aftermath of a celebration. To those who see them in person and also those who see the photographs later, we hope the sculptures that we install and abandon appear like voices sprouting from cracks in the landscape. These hard won scripts are almost always revealed at night, but sometimes during the in-between times of dawn or dusk.
Since our work is surreptitious and unauthorized, most of the sculptures disappear within 24 hours, removed and very likely destroyed. For this new series we decided to make all of the sculptures relatively small and easily manipulated – with the theory that some of them might be taken as trophies or gifts (fitting easily inside a hatchback and on the wall in most any garage or den) rather than be demolished. To our delight, at several sites where installations were removed we found clear evidence that part of the sculpture had indeed been captured rather than thrown away. Although it is not always possible, we often revisit and check up on the installations, repeatedly if they survive. We usually photograph whatever we find that remains on site, but we never interfere with the objects again. We simply observe, document, and then leave it exactly as we found it. Our part is done. And it is best left that way – open, unknown, and never-ending.
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Artist's Statement - May 2011
The majority of my recent sculptures have taken the form of roadside signage, which are made and then sited at locations ranging from single-lane gravel farm roads to major highways. Most of these interventions are not formally authorized so the work's encounter with its initial audience, travelers on the road, is often rather brief. The signs are left on site until they are removed by authorities or by citizens. Most of the signs are removed within 24 hours. A series of photographs of these installations and related works on paper become a record of these events as well as the primary point of engagement with their second audience, the art-going public.
The preliminary stage of his work is experimentation with text and image executed as very graphic, brightly colored works on paper. The text and/or images from these drawings often lead to signage-sculptures of one kind or another. The messages in the drawings (and subsequent signage) are culled from a variety of sources including news stories, advertising, radio reports, t-shirts, posters, graffiti, and bits of overheard conversation. Sometimes the messages presented are direct quotes. Sometimes they are an amalgamation of several sources. In other cases, they are fabrications intended to resonate and reverberate with the authorial voice shifting, vibrating in opposition and sometimes collapsing altogether.