Grear Patterson, Forest Theater
In an exhibition on view at the American Academy in Rome, the American artist Grear Patterson plumbs the pleasures and traumas of adolescence in photographs, videos, works on canvas, and sculptures that evoke personal and collective rites of passage. His work, alternating between disclosure and reticence, explores the immediacy of violent impulses and erotic yearning. Like a collection of random snapshots and personal effects, Forest Theater summons in various, often indirect ways, formative moments in Patterson’s life. Embodied by, among other things, baseball cards, summer camp, and fireworks on the Fourth of July, these moments might be construed as typical of an American childhood and the turbulent passages of adolescence—Sturm und Drang leavened by the cool sensibility of Ed Ruscha, with a nod to the dark undercurrent in William Eggleston’s photographs of backyards and suburban clutter. Part Hardy Boy and part Holden Caulfield, Patterson presents his recollections in the form of photographs and private relics, tapping into a broader consciousness. His artist’s book, like the works in the exhibition, contains remarkably mature ruminations upon memory, nostalgia, and the hormone-fueled transition from childhood to adulthood. Like Harold with his purple crayon, Patterson creates a rich personal world that melds the real and the imaginary.
A precocious former member of the Still House Group, Patterson focuses on stark contemporary language and its visual surrogates, a nowadays dictionary made up of winking and frowning emoticons distilled and reshuffled into ambiguous ciphers. These impenetrable hieroglyphs are countered by expressive images almost overflowing with romanticized nostalgia for lost innocence and childhood rituals. In a show named for the site of many of his most significant formative experiences, he plumbs the pleasures and traumas of adolescence in photographs, videos, paintings, and sculptures that evoke both personal and collective rites of passage. His work, alternating between disclosure and reticence, subtly explores not only the immediacy of reckless experience, violent impulses, and erotic yearning, but the often halting emotional and linguistic shorthand used to express those furtive memories and desires.
The exhibition is curated by Peter Benson Miller, Andrew Heiskell Arts Director at the American Academy in Rome, in collaboration with the Depart Foundation.
On this occasion, the artist and the curator will present the large-format artist’s book, also entitled Forest Theater, designed and published by NERO to accompany the exhibition. It contains a text by Peter Benson Miller.
The closing date of the exhibition has been postponed to December 4, 2014.
The exhibition is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 4:00 to 7:00pm; and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, December 2, 3, and 4, from 4:00 to 7:00pm.