THE LEGACY OF AN ARMY OF ONE: JEF CAMPION

Opening April 3, 2014

America has finally lost its innocence;

I’m fighting for a lost innocence.

… Jef Campion

 

Castle Fitzjohns Gallery is pleased to announce a mini-retrospective and memorial exhibition for Jef Campion/Army of One.

 

In 1962, Diane Arbus composed an image Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park, New York City (1962), expressing commiseration with the awkward loneliness of a child exasperated with his own reality. 40 years later, as a street artist from New York to Los Angeles, Jef Campion appropriated this image as a anti-war metaphor, as his lone foot soldier in a campaign against war and against the loss of all innocent life: as his Army of One.

 

In 2001 Jef Campion (aka Army of One), firefighter, artist, and anti-war activist acted as a first responder for 40 days, sifting through the rubble of the remains of the twin towers in Manhattan. In January 2014, at the age of 52, Campion passed away due to the unrelenting and unsuccessfully treated effects of this trauma (both mental and physical), but not before leaving behind an astounding artistic legacy, as well as an enduring message: Give peace a chance. This is what we honor on Thursday April 3, 2014.

 

Self described as pro-soldier and antiwar, a compassionate political polemic was never far from Campion’s thinking—or works of art. A lot of my art stems from 9/11 and my time down at ground zero; a lot of the street art stems from my 26 years working with the Ronald MacDonald House and children with cancer, the artist commented in 2011. Continuing to work closely with the charity, which supports the lives of seriously ill children and their families, until his death, Campion is most famous for this appropriation of the Arbus image as a street artist under the moniker Army of One: I use Diane Arbus’ image as a metaphor for the hurt and the pain that children go through; not only in disease but in war, poverty, homelessness, abuse.

 

However street art was not Campion’s only medium. Calling upon his deep inner rage and frustration at injustice within the world as well as within his own life, Jef composed an astounding body of work under his own name (and not his Army of One alias) which defies categorization. Evidence of true genius and fine art practice, this profoundly personal oeuvre is at once aesthetically entirely separate from and still intrinsically related to his street art practice. From poetry to found objects, iconography to sculptural combines, this body of work for this exhibition only memorial retrospective will be seen in its entirely for the first time at Castle FitzJohns Gallery. We are at once immensely proud and deeply saddened to have the opportunity to honor such a brilliant artist, activist, public servant, and individual. 

 

May his legacy live on.