Carter (Norwich CT, 1970) is an eclectic artist, his heterogeneous practice ranging from drawing to painting, sculpture, photography and video, different media that converge in his questioning of identity, one of the fundamental themes of the American artist’s research, starting with his name. Though Carter is in fact the artist’s name, it might well be, in its terseness, a stage name, a pseudonym capable of generating confusion and ambiguity. Carter’s output of films is considered directly related to his work in the studio, with a thematic and intermedial continuity.
Erased James Franco (2008) was his first feature-length film, starring the American actor whose name gives the film its title, engaged in reinterpreting every single scene film scene and TV appearance since the beginning of his career. The film paid tribute to Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning (1953), created by the artist after convincing de Kooning to give him a drawing he could erase and redo as his own. Carter asked Franco to leave, in his reinterpretation, only the memory, the essence, of the creative act, like Rauschenberg in the act of deleting and recreating de Kooning’s drawing.
Maladies (2010) investigated the sense of loss and alienation of two artists (played by Catherine Keener and again James Franco), who measured themselves against the rigid America of the 1960s. While the former is overwhelmed by a rethinking of her own gender identity, the latter is in the throes of an unspecified illness, while their status as artists turns them into victims whose works are always left unfinished in spite of themselves, being mired in the existential torments of their two creators.
In his artistic production, Carter hybridizes multiple references, articulated in a calibrated formal complexity, above all Pop Art, Art Deco and Abstract Expressionism. His multimedia canvases denote the artist’s interest in portraiture, while the use of fabric as a direct construction material is anthropomorphized, evoking fragments of bodies: floating mouths and circular eye-sockets, carefully sewn up. The materials chosen – clothes, towels, sheets and other fabrics – are intrinsically linked to everyday life.
In the work in collection, Transformato Due Volte (“Twice Transformed,” 2012), which belongs to the series Janus travestito (“Janus Disguised”) presented at the Galleria Annarumma in Naples, two human masks dominate semi-figurative landscapes combining pen and ink painting with elements of collage. The various materials have a stratified consistency that gives the painting an almost sculptural appearance. The title refers to the theme of the mask and masking, bound up with the theme of identity and Janus, the two-faced god who looks both to the future and the past, the one who presided in ancient mythology over all beginnings and transitions, abstract and concrete, sacred and profane. A deity who in the artist’s poetic becomes the emblem of an identity in transit, a twofold ego, perhaps a twofold gender.