After a year and a half without a major collective exhibition, Anh Pham and Casey Vandyke’s Xygoat brought the gallery scene back to Jacksonville on Oct. 15.
It was the offspring of an idea months in the making. In the early spring of this year, Anh Pham was on a walk when she had a prophetic vision: an exhibition with her work alongside other painters and photographers, something to celebrate a grand collaboration among artists. She posted the idea to her Instagram story over a scenic video.
“The only one to respond was Casey VanDyke,” said Pham, showing his response: “this sounds really cool!”
VanDyke is a mixed-media artist based out of Springfield. His work draws from Dada and surrealism, bringing them into modernity with a shadowy 21st-century vision. It’s on the other end of the spectrum from Pham’s hyperreal, saturated pop-art portraits, but the themes that draw them together are curiously similar. They work from a lens of advertising and surveillance, challenging late-stage capitalism and its implanted memories.
The message was the first material spark of connection between artists that would otherwise exist only in a network of algorithms and friends of friends. After a few weeks of throwing ideas back and forth virtually, Pham and VanDyke met up in person to start planning.
“We were sitting at Bold Bean – there were a lot of Bold Bean meetings –” she said, “and talked about what came to mind when we thought about a bunch of artists coming together, the biological definition of coming together. Then we messed around with the spelling.”
It became xygoat, as in zygote, with goat to symbolize creation and xy for the chromosomes. Pham designed the logo as a nod to Byzantine art – the eye is in fact a mandorla turned on its side, the shape at the intersection of two circles, symbolizing the space between heaven and earth.
She already had a venue in mind. She had met Momo Show Palace at her opening exhibition “How 2 Be a Butterfly” at Bold Bean San Marco a few weeks prior, when he invited her to come check out his studio in Historic Springfield. This gave Pham a lightbulb, she said, as a warehouse seemed like the perfect space for a Jacksonville crowd.
Pham and VanDyke got to work bringing in artists of different backgrounds. Though many of them didn’t know each other, they drew connections in the themes of their work and the way they would complement one another.
“We were looking at people’s styles that were similar, but had some creative tension that would create something new,” said Pham.
They first met with the artists in early June and created a five-month timeframe to prepare for the show. There they decided on themes of advertising, surveillance, perception, and identity.
“We grow up in a social media age where things are observed from a window where you kind of experience these things indirectly. They’re artificial experiences,” said Pham, “Which ties into advertising because when you’re projected an image, it’s artificial, but it embeds itself in your memory. That’s where the themes come into play.”
Anh Pham hosted the fashion show, called Anharchy in the 2K, put a spin on Y2K fashion with garments hand-sewn by Pham herself from recycled materials. They tied the punk elements from the performing artists with pop art and surrealism.
The collective has more exhibitions to come. Find updates via instagram @xygoa.t.