“Expiration Date” Explores Time, Death, and What Lies Beyond

Mortality is a universal human concern, but how each of us comes to terms with this fate is a wholly individual experience. Through found objects and works by self-taught or outsider artists, “Expiration Date” at Ricco/Maresca showcases various unique understandings of death and the myriad ways we confront it.

The New York show serves to position death, or the transfiguration or reincarnation of the soul, within the greater context of human history. Whether a painted skull by tattoo artist Scott Campbell or a folk art penitente carving from New Mexico, the breadth of genres, styles, and themes underscores the intrigue surrounding mortality and the unknown as well as the often cathartic act of art-making.

Marcos Bontempo’s grotesque, fluid figures feature prominently in the show. Bontempo, who suffers from schizophrenia, paints to calm himself and express inner turmoil. His work is grounded in the belief that pain is central to human existence; washes of black, golden yellow, and red show humans overwhelmed by shapeless masses, suggesting a greater, fate-controlling force.

Rearranging calendars and repositioning historical events, George Widener investigates death in the context of continuous cycles of time. In doing so, he reveals patterns that shed light on the past while undermining the significance of the present.

Elsewhere, a cataloglike collection of headstones appeals to the uniformity of memento mori—essentially, the commodification of death. As with other pieces in the show, this exploration of death finds itself at the intersection of spiritual and secular themes as it depicts the ways humans have ritualized a fate we cannot escape.


—Emily Singer


Expiration Date” is on view at Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, Mar. 10–Apr. 16, 2016.

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