NEW YORK, NY.- Derek Eller Gallery
is presenting Pieces of a Man, a solo exhibition of monumental black ink and spray paint works on canvas and paper by William Downs. Utilizing his own well-developed visual language in which androgynous moving bodies fluidly interact within a Bosch-ian landscape, Downs composes scenes which evoke compassion, vulnerability, darkness, and light.
Downs applies India ink with brushes, sticks, and brooms, creating a lexicon of mark-making which denotes movement, weight, and depth. Rendered in a line which fluctuates from tight and calligraphic to watery and loose, Downs figures are hairless and barefoot. At times, facial features are blurred and repeated, indicating motion. Bodies are either naked or clad in cactus suits, a prickly protective layer which covers most everything but leaves the face and buttocks exposed. Spectral shadow figures a tonal nod to Kerry James Marshall in their deeply saturated black are interspersed throughout, and passages of spray paint act as punctuation.
In Reveling in Thorns, the six central figures are posed in a manner reminiscent of Caravaggios Entombment of Christ, mourning the corpse which they gently cradle in their arms. Like the gender, race and sexuality of the characters, the time period of this scene is ambiguous. However, the tender moment of touch and empathy becomes particularly relevant in the current era of social distance. Equally pertinent are the tiny tents which proliferate the landscape, as these connect to the increasingly visible homeless encampments throughout Atlanta where Downs lives and works. While his narrative is intentionally open-ended, there is a pervasive sense of pathos on display, a spiritual obligation for the actors to hold one another together. It is this need to re-assemble the pieces of a man, so to speak, which strongly resonates with the present moment.
William Downs (born Greenville, SC) has had recent solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia in Atlanta and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. His work was featured in the 2021 Atlanta Biennial at Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Albany Museum in Albany, GA and The African American Museum of Art in Philadelphia. He is a recipient of the MOCA GA Working Artist Project Grant (2019) and Artadia Award (2018). He has taught at MICA in Baltimore and Parsons in New York City and will be a 2021 Visiting Critic and Lecturer at Anderson Ranch Arts center in Colorado. This will be his first exhibition with the gallery.
Project Room: André Ethier
July 8 - August 27, 2021
Derek Eller Gallery is also presenting a solo exhibition of recent paintings by Canadian artist André Ethier.
Ethiers intimately scaled oils exist somewhere between allegory and autobiography. Reminiscent of a mythological character, his protagonist evokes the image of a muscleman, a philosopher, and a victim of fate. He is placed within a barren wilderness, a weak version of a frontier that could only be imagined by a self-centered simpleton. He clumsily strums his guitar and sings his song, tangled in the trees. Ethiern writes, Fittingly, it feels equally clumsy to paint
to drag my hairy brush around the canvas, seems as ridiculous and comical as celebrating the conquering of The Wilderness.
Andr Ethier (b. 1977) lives and works in Toronto, Canada. His work has been featured in exhibitions at Honor Fraser, Los Angeles, CA; Galeria Marta Cervera, Madrid, Spain; Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto; Harpers Apartment, New York: Musee Des Beaux-Arts De Montreal, Montreal, Canada; Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC and Gallerie Anne de Villepoix, Paris, France, among others. This will be his seventh solo exhibition with the gallery.