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Grear Patterson’s Forest Theatre at AAR

October 21, 2014
Peter Benson Miller, Grear Patterson and Pierpaolo Barzan of the Depart Foundation
Grear Patterson and installation John Henry (2014)
Installation Moonlight Sleepover (2014)
Sub Ak-47 (2014) in the Cryptoporticus
Camp Mondamin installation (2014)
Fun in the Sun (2012) and visitors in the AAR Gallery
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A new exhibition dedicated to American artist and photographer Grear Patterson opened last Wednesday at the AAR Gallery. Organized in collaboration with the Depart Foundation and curated by Andrew Heiskell Arts Director Peter Benson Miller, Forest Theater presents sixteen works of photography, video, and installation extending beyond the gallery into the forecourt, cortile, stairwell and cryptoporticus of the McKim, Mead & White Building.

Patterson’s works draw on his own American childhood, yet suggest broader dialogues between individual and collective memory, between personal and public imaginaries. Named for a stone amphitheatre in Carmel, California where the artist had some of his most formative early experiences, and hosted within the historic halls of the Academy, the exhibition presents a fundamental juxtaposition of past and present visual vocabularies.

Works variously suggest time spent on a suburban street corner, up a tree house, at the beach, watching baseball, jumping rope or lying in a hammock. A sunfish installed in the Academy fountain, Camp Mondamin (2014), at once recalls childhood pranks, summer sailing camp and the monumentalization of past experiences, such as playing with miniature sailboats in the fountains of public parks. Yet the playful aspect of this gesture is matched by an equally profound evocation of time’s passing as the sculpture becomes a sundial, casting intermittent light and shadows during the course of day. The works on display are thus intended to playfully tickle the stately, monumental spaces of the American Academy while also suggesting the serious implications of play, as the driving force of creativity, growth and discovery in human civilization.   

Patterson explores a number of contemporary symbols and signs that have come to permeate the Information or Digital Age. In It’s Gonna Be Alright, one of his Duck Test series from 2014, the artist addresses the possibilities and limitations of contemporary language and its visual cues suggesting that even as the means of communication have proliferated, the modes of expression have become increasingly reduced to a series of interrupted, staccato signs. Video projections like Sub AK-47 (2014) or Wendy (2014) similarly suggest the undercurrents of violence and erotic yearning that inform this contemporary imaginary.

A Connecticut-born artist, Grear Patterson was trained at Duke University and the New York School of Visual Arts. Previously a member of the Still House Group, a New York collective designed to call attention to promising young talent, his work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including the 9th Shanghai Biennale (2012). The artist’s first solo exhibition in New York was quickly followed by others in Dublin and Kansas City and he has series of new solo shows scheduled for next year at the Marlborough Gallery in New York, the Depart Foundation in Los Angeles, and Carl Kostyal in Stockholm.

Patterson’s first solo exhibition in Italy is currently on view at the Academy until November 30th and will travel to the Depart Foundation Project Space in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California in late March.