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Spencer Sweeney's "Egyptian Diving Board" at Gavin Brown's Enterprise
Spencer Sweeney, Untitled, 2009-2010. Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 42 inches. Photo: Courtesy Gavin Brown's Enterprise

NEW YORK, NY.- The Gavin Brown's enterprise presents the second part of Spencer Sweeney's unprecedented exhibition "Egyptian Diving Board".

Sweeney is a seminal figure in the culture of 21st century New York. In a city where all creativity must be packaged and branded and then protected against risk, Sweeney has consistently avoided category. What he is matters less than what he does. In our opinion he has carried the standard for a city of the imagination - a city that barely exists anymore. A city that he came to from Philadelphia, and a city in which he still resides.

For the weeks from mid December to mid January when he sat like a cuckoo at 620 Greenwich St, we glimpsed that city and were thrilled by the sight and sounds. Following on from his Christmas extravaganza the gallery will present, for two weeks only, the more than 15 paintings that resulted from his occupation.

Come down to Greenwich St. and take a tour. See the pictures. See the portraits. Karen Black, Mindy Veil, Spencer Sweeney. Taste something.

“From his role as the only non-female in the seminal “fake,” rock band Actress (was it an artist, the American Fine Arts gallery house band, a protest against the boredom of nightlife, a fashion show with noise?) to his recent production of dance records under the name "Housing Projects", Spencer Sweeney has always exploited the allure and excitement of music in order to get attention and remake his public persona. Meanwhile, his exhibitions of paintings and drawings throughout the past few years have revealed - by turns - an anarchic, wild boy sensibility reminiscent of Kippenberger/Oehlen or early Peter Saul and, in his daily pen and pencil drawings, an elegant graphic approach that seems to channel both the visionary hand and ear of William Blake and the precision social caricatures of 19th century dandy Constantin Guys. Whether dealing with images or sounds, Sweeney’s primary concerns are the corrosive and emancipatory potentials of public exposure, and the tactical re-appropriation of pop and sub-cultural codes in order to turn them back against the homogenizing force of the very culture he takes them from.

In his case, music and painting are not the parallel occupations of an information age multi-tasker, they are interchangeable, throw-away stances in an urban milieu that always manages to put us to work no matter how bored or lazy or confused we in fact are. Music is an escape from the laborious piling up of static fine art objects. Painting is a rejection of the entropic time of bars and clubs. Neither is enough but together they can be almost too much, and in Sweeney's art this double activity creates a zone of indistinction where the limits and definitions of each practice are constantly blurred and redrawn. Sweeney proposes a model of work that is less about professionalism and the fabrication of signature products than the ecstatic unworking of a subjectivity always already put to work in the non-stop consumption of lifestyle choices.

It is a kind of impassioned indifference to styles and forms that allows him to elaborate the joyful and perverse distances he opens up between his role as a cultural producer and the steady output of new sensations and perceptions. Whether concocting psychedelic illustrations of impossible, hybrid life-forms (drag queen scat-skaters, cum guzzling Jesus impersonators, etc.) or creating raucous, multi-layered canvases - sometimes prissily rendered in rainbow hues, other times piggishly thrown down in drunken strokes of black or white or physically pierced by plastic flowers, Sweeney unleashes new and unexpected worlds 'more scary and more free' in energetic compositions devised from the ruins and fragments of this one.

Since his brush with death in a rickshaw accident in October of 2003, Spencer Sweeney has reassessed his role as a cultural producer in a world where everything changes except the fact that nothing much happens anymore. Sweeney's post-rickshaw moment is one of cold-eyed clarity, a time of looking forward and inward, a time to dig deeper into the crates and into the mud of subjectivity. In order to lay hold of it there where it is made to happen and destroy it one more time, in order to re-appropriate its constant destruction and begin again from there.”

-John Kelsey

The Gavin Brown's enterprise | "Egyptian Diving Board" | Spencer Sweeney |

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