Inigo Philbrick is pleased to present Spray, Memory
, the gallery’s inaugural show at 22 Davies Street. The exhibition features a pairing of Sterling Ruby spray paintings and Mike Kelley memory ware flats.
Mike Kelley’s memory ware flats confront the viewer with an almost kaleidoscopic array of visual stimuli that seem to be rising to the surface of the artworks. Taking their name from a folk-art custom in which everyday objects are encrusted with trinkets – buttons, badges, shells, costume jewelry – these expansive works present a quasi-archeological approach to memory. By presenting the viewer with such a plethora of items, Kelley asks us to come to terms with our collective cultural past in an age in which memories are so closely associated with the things with which we surround ourselves; paradoxically, this is also an age in which we are most likely to jettison those objects. Just as folk-art repurposes and revitalizes items through decoration and embellishment, Kelley attempts to reassess these objects’ value imbued with the memories of a generation.
In contrast, Sterling Ruby’s spray paintings call to mind a sinister present. Inspired by methods used to eradicate graffiti near the artist’s studio in Los Angeles, the repetitive gestures and immersive surfaces point to the repression of non-conformist culture. By way of illusionistic abstraction reminiscent of Pollock and Rothko, Ruby’s paintings highlight power struggles in American society, pointing to the fact that until it come to terms with a violent and oppressive past, America will continue to experience turbulent times. But the paintings reward deep contemplation, and the entropic plane of vision they present poses the possibility of upheaval and change.
In both these bodies of work we can see two artists engaging with that most ungraspable of notions: American identity. While Kelley looks to the recent past, and Ruby to the present, they both seek an answer to the question of great importance. Evoking a past with which America has yet to come fully to terms and a present fraught with difficulties, they point the way to an uncertain future.