Ryan Sullivan and Shannon Ebner Launch Sadie Coles Autumn Season Exhibitions
Sadie Coles HQ has announced the lineup for her Autumn season of exhibitions, as well as the opening on 11 September of her new gallery at 62 Kingly Street, London. The inaugural show at 62 Kingly Street will be of new works by American painter Ryan Sullivan.
Situated in the heart of the West End, this 6000-square-foot exhibition space extends across the first floor of a listed nineteenth-century building. Formerly a nightclub, it has been transformed into an expansive and minimal interior flooded by natural light from above and with double-height ceilings throughout. The gallery will provide scope for an ambitious and diverse programme of exhibitions.
This will be Ryan Sullivan's first exhibition with Sadie Coles HQ. Forthcoming exhibitions include those by Urs Fischer, Helen Marten, and Jim Lambie. In addition to the main space is a cabinet-style gallery. Here, smaller projects will be mounted, reviving the format of the acclaimed series of ‘SITUATION’ projects by Sarah Lucas above Sadie Coles HQ’s former premises on New Burlington Place.
62 Kingly Street is the largest site yet occupied by Sadie Coles HQ. Offering views onto Regent Street at one end and Soho at the other, it sits at the intersection of two historic and contrasting quarters of the West End. Sadie Coles HQ has operated from a series of distinctive venues since its foundation in 1997 on Heddon Street – a short distance from the new site – as well as variety of off-site venues throughout London. The gallery will continue to operate from its existing two spaces in Mayfair, 69 South Audley Street and 9 Balfour Mews.
In his first exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, Ryan Sullivan presents a series of new large-scale paintings. The exhibition marks the inauguration of Sadie Coles HQ’s new gallery on Kingly Street. Sullivan’s singular painting style arises from an open- ended process that is focused on the physical properties of his media. Each canvas bears witness to its making – asserting the dynamic movements and mutations of its raw materials. In Sullivan’s studio, the canvases sit parallel to the floor. As he progressively tilts them (a crucial intervention), their contents shift and spill. A subtle interplay between viscosity and gravity therefore drives the progression of each work. He adds layers of spray paint to an unstable base
layer, accentuating the lines and rifts that haphazardly develop. Material movement becomes the agent of composition – reinforcing the idea of painting as a temporal entity, and reminding us that ‘painting’ denotes both a process and an outcome.
The dominant medium throughout this new series is spray paint. Invented in 1949, spray paint is arguably a hallmark of automated mass production. Flooding the works with a stark luminescence, it removes the artist’s hand from the act of painting. As a readymade, industrially-produced medium, spray paint underscores the idea of each canvas signifying an event beyond Sullivan’s individual calculation. Its distinctive physical qualities make it ideal for capturing the fleeting movements of the underlying paint. It is immiscible in its liquid state, and sits as a fine slick on the wet paint beneath, creating an alternately opaque and translucent carapace.
In these latest works, Sullivan has amplified the automatic quality of spray paint through a new procedure. He literally explodes a can by puncturing it with a drawing pin, allowing the contents to discharge over the course of thirty or forty seconds. Paint disperses across the surface of a painting in a fashion that is analogous to slanting light. Premeditated yet volatile, the action embodies the paradox of a ‘controlled explosion’. Sullivan likens the rapid discharge to shining a “bright light against a textured surface”. Through its replication of the movement of light, the action achieves a photorealist representation of light and shadow. There is, in this way, a proximity between material and ‘image’ that links these latest paintings closely with those of twentieth-century painters who conflated ‘flat’ abstraction with illusionality. An immaterial, photographic quality arises that is at dramatic odds with – yet inseparable from – the paintings’ physical make-up.
Sullivan’s works thus achieve a beguiling illusionality by dint of a process that is studiedly materialist. As he has noted: “Part of the experience of the painting is reconciling the disconnect between the physical reality of the paintings and the photographic quality.” (Ironically, that disjunctive quality is impossible to capture in photographs). And yet the “physical reality” is ever clear from the paintings’ spilled-over edges. Evidencing the downward pull of gravity on the materials, these drips provide an insight into the myriad colours and iterations that each canvas has undergone. Countering the impression of ambiguous depth or scale, they moreover flatly re-assert the actual depth and scale of each work.
As with Warhol’s iconic oxidation or ‘piss’ paintings, each of Sullivan’s paintings is simultaneously a process, an image and an abstraction. Depersonalised yet expressive, superficial yet illusional, the prevailing medium of spray paint embodies the contradictions – and the volatile physics – of these new works.
Ryan Sullivan (b. 1983) lives and works in New York. He studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (RI). In early 2013, he was artist in residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Captiva (FL), and later this year will be artist in residence at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa (TX). In the summer of 2013, he exhibited a group of new works at Hydra’s Workshop, Hydra, Greece. In 2012, he had a solo exhibition at Maccarone, New York. Current and recent group exhibitions in 2013 include Empire State, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy; and Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out, White Flag Projects, St. Louis (MI).
Shannon Ebner’s first exhibition at Sadie Coles HQ, The Electric Comma, marks the culmination of a three-year project. Black Box Collision A, a parallel project to The Electric Comma, is simultaneously on view at 9 Balfour Mews.
The Electric Comma first began as a thirteen- line poem written in 2011.The writing of the poem was the first step towards its final realisation in visual form through the act of photographing. For this reason, the language of the poem served as a series of directives, and provided a set of circumstances, that informed the making of the project. “Dear Reader Comma” the poem begins, in a direct address to HQ
the reader, and concludes by telling the reader to “go outside this time and plug in some really long chord / this will make your photographic dance the electric comma / and promptly disarrange the photographic universe / I state this comma / turn it around / turn it around.” Last autumn, Ebner rented a Portable Changeable Message Sign, typically used to announce roadside emergency information such as changing traffic patterns or accidents, detours and other unforeseen delays. She programmed the sign with the Electric Comma text, an act which served as the basis for the exhibition.
Upstairs at South Audley Street, six black-and-white photographs depict portions of the original poem in varying degrees of legibility. The comma, as a means of simultaneously revealing and restricting meaning, is the leitmotif of this series. The photographs play out the mutable nature of language, according with curator Laura Hoptman’s observation that “[Language] can be unreadable, although it can also be apprehended and even pronounced. It subverts conventional modes of interpretation. It is not text, it is form, and that can have an infinite number of variations. In some cases form is its content. In some cases it resists form altogether.”1 Downstairs is a single-channel video work that animates photographs of the sign taken in fifteen different positions over the course of one day. As the sign rotates its screen hydraulically, the camera also moves around the sign. Even though the sign’s base is fixed, the movement of the photographer around the reflected surface of the sign depicts a continually shifting landscape recorded on the surface of the image.
Black Box Collision A is comprised of thirteen large-scale photographs of the letter ‘A’. Found on walls, vehicles, electronic surfaces and the tops of building façades, each photograph is the result of close observation of a redundant vestige of sign, advertisement, message, or other mode of visual communication. Devoid of their original context and printed to human scale, Ebner’s A’s in the black box of the gallery collide like bodies in space, bodies in camera, and bodies in the black box of the eye’s mind. Alongside these images is one final long and narrow work called Public Surface Pattern – a remnant from a bridge overpass found along a highway in the artist’s home state of California, and rotated on end to underscore a pattern of human made marks. Public Surface Pattern signals to high- speed motorists travelling past its noisy yet distant message, pointing to a place where language is the vehicle – both real and imagined - and the electronic image writes itself into binary form.
Shannon Ebner (b. 1971, New Jersey) lives and works in Los Angeles. Recent solo exhibitions include those at the Hammer Museum (2011), MoMA PS1 (2007), and group exhibitions such as Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Language, MoMA, New York (2012), ILLUMInations, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice (2011), The Spectacular of Vernacular, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2011), 6th Berlin Biennale of contemporary Art, Berlin (2010), and the Whitney Biennial, New York (2008). In April 2012, Ebner was commissioned by Dia Art Foundation to produce an artist website project entitled Language is Wild. In 2009, Ebner’s book The Sun as Error, was published by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in co-operation with Dexter Sinister. On Friday 18 October 2013, Ebner will be in conversation with Stuart Comer (Curator, Media and Performance Art, MoMA) at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London.
Ryan Sullivan Sadir Coles HQ 11 September – 02 November 2013 62 Kingly St London W1
Shannon Ebner The Electric Comma, 05 September – 02 November 2013 69 South Audley St London W1 and 9 Balfour Mews London W1