North American Mammals
November 13 – December 20, 2014
456 W 18th Street
Sean Landers’s newest body of work depicts a layered story of mortality, artistic legacy, and the posterity of art. Since the 1990s Landers has produced a diverse body of paintings, sculptures, drawings, and videos that, regardless of form or style, bares the artist to the world. From stream-of-consciousness text paintings, videos, and a novel to representational narrative paintings to his abstracted and fragmented text works, Landers has used the relationship between verbal and visual language to strip the sacrosanct myths associated with art and artist while simultaneously constructing new ones in his own likeness. This exhibition continues the practice of exploring the meaning of what it is to be a contemporary maker of art and poses questions beyond the quotidian of the studio.
The exhibition “North American Mammals” is divided into three groups of paintings, each of which spiderweb in reference to one another. The first group is comprised of nine paintings depicting steel gray library bookshelves holding neatly stacked books. Each of the tightly painted book spines directs their vertically embossed titles out to the viewer. The titles have the surreal ability to disassociate themselves from the painted image, as if to float beyond their representational bounds.
As the titles are read from left to right, they complete each chapter of Landers’s prose. Rather than the artist’s well-known Joycean stream-of-consciousness writing, the new work ruminates with an existential voice. Themes run from the eternal existence of a painting [Mountain Goat (An Argument for Solipsism) and Boar (Brueghel the Archer)] to collecting and being collected [Howler Monkey (Casting it Back Out to Sea) and Hare (The Promiscuity of Art)] to the core attributes of being an artist [Jaguar (The Urgent Necessity of Narcissism for the Artistic Mind) and Pony (When Performance Becomes Reality)]. Further, Landers associates new symbols with every story in the form of an animal: bear, hare, boar, horse, goat, monkey, jaguar, coyote, and fawn. In each painting the symbol appears twice—once as the title of the first book upon the shelf and later as visions of the animals in their natural habitats as seen through a crystal ball poised upon a shelf below.