While some may ignore or avoid hyperbolic headlines, artist Rudy Shepherd considers them a source of inspiration. In his work—a mix of painting, sculpture, video, and ceramics—Shepherd investigates how the media shapes and distorts public opinion. On a daily basis, he paints and draws the figures and places he encounters in the news. The works resulting from this practice form the foundation of Shepherd’s new show “Disaster Fatigue,” on view at Mixed Greens in New York.
While creating his sculpture series “Black Rock Negative Energy Absorbers” Shepherd began investigating the sensational headlines of the Daily News and the New York Post. Some of these stories were of young black men that looked vaguely like Shepherd himself. This spurred him to begin to look at criminals and victims, as well as how media perpetuates prejudice. Shepherd explained that he began to examine the “dark side of human nature, that part of all of us that causes us to mistreat and distrust one another.” For the works in “Disaster Fatigue,” Shepherd homed in on iconic images from major American news stories from the past decade, including courtroom scenes from the Trayvon Martin case (as in Trayvon Martin, 2013), the War Room at the White House during the moment when Osama Bin Laden was killed (as in The War Room, 2012), and Columbine High School (as in Columbine High School, 2012). Additionally, painted portraits of dictators, felons, victims, and loved-ones, all executed in the same style, hang side by side, causing viewers to question who are the criminals and who are the innocents, and reflect on the way these figures are depicted by media outlets.
Alongside these portraits is a series of “Healing Devices,” small sculptural forms meant to be spiritual objects. Each of these worksis meant to absorb negative energy and allow others to live more positively. In his video, The Healer Emerges (2012), Shepherd has cast himself as a ceremonial healer, performing rituals to absolve viewers of damaging ideas.
“Disaster Fatigue” is on view at Mixed Greens, New York, Sept. 11th–Oct. 11th, 2014.