In a Better Place: Ian de Beer & Craig Sheperd
Presented by Resource:Art at Big Orbit Gallery
OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, November 25th 7-11pm
RESOURCE:ART announces In a Better Place, a two-person exhibition featuring Ian de Beer and Craig Sheperd at Big Orbit Gallery (30 Essex St Ste D, Buffalo, NY). This exhibition marks the first time longtime friends, de Beer and Sheperd, are showing together. In a Better Place opens Saturday, November 25th with a reception 7-11 pm and will be on view (by appointment only) through January 6th. Leave a message at 716-249-1320, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.
Sense of place is an important component in both de Beer and Sheperd’s work, and the title In A Better Place has personal significance for both artists. The phrase is a philosophical quandary explored by each artist, as well as an allusion to the unique history of Sheperd’s paintings. The paintings, most of which are enamel on metal, were created over a period of 2 1/2 years where the concept of change through exposure to the elements played a large part in their creation. After they were painted, Sheperd thoughtfully placed the works in abandoned urban environments around Buffalo—forgotten industrial and other peripheral sites, where they were left to be exposed to the weather as well as potential human and animal intervention. The result is a patina of rust, fading and other naturally induced marks adding another layer to Sheperd’s traditionally painted images. Sheperd conducted this aesthetic experiment with 30 paintings, 18 of which were selected for this exhibition. Displayed with the paintings themselves, will be photographs of the works while hung in their exterior environments, surreal compositions of artwork in a completely foreign environment—the exact opposite of the traditional white cube.
In a Better Place also includes a new series of rectangular paintings by Ian de Beer. All 72 x 32 inches, the selected dimension is meant to reference the portions of a prison bunk bed. The imagery, abstractions in acrylic and oil on unprimed canvas, reminiscent of de Beer’s past explorations of graffiti tags, is this time focused on the act of priming a can of spray paint before getting into the act and the mark making associated with that—usually a mundane and un-visual process. This is the first time these paintings will have an opportunity to be viewed en masse and the result of the paintings, all of uniform dimension lined up next to each other, is moving. The intentional dimension choice is a personal one for de Beer, who has served time for graffiti related crimes—the second longest and most rigid sentence in the history of the United States for crimes of this nature. Contextualizing the paintings by referencing his incarceration, adds a powerful and haunting presence to this new body of work. It is clear that de Beer’s experience, both as an active practitioner of graffiti and his time incarcerated, has greatly informed his current creative practice. He has used his personal experience as a way to deeply reflect on the nature of all intentional mark making as it relates to the history of abstraction. As he explains:
I am now able to draw the connections between personal lessons I’ve learned through my own experience and the revelations of modern painters whose work have been fundamental in developing my understanding of the history of modern painting. I now understand my position within the context of graffiti and cannot begin to paint on canvas without carrying over some of that which has informed the marks I’ve made in the past. Within these paintings, I’ve reconciled all that I’ve come to know about how to make a mark.
Though aesthetically very different, these two bodies of work share a definite affinity which is grounded in the aesthetic references to counter culture, gritty urbanity, and frank expression.
The installation is bookended by works created by both artists in homage to Daniel Montano who de Beer describes as “a friend, philosopher, artist, and great influence in my life.” Montano, known in the graffiti world by his moniker, MFONE, was an active tagger in Pittsburgh. Montano passed away earlier this year at age 31.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
IAN DE BEER is a multi-disciplinary artist working under the strict restrictions of parole supervision, the result of a 2010 conviction for graffiti related crimes. de Beer is self-educated and self-taught, having spent the majority of his time during periods of incarceration studying art history and honing his creative practice. His work relates the history of painting to his personal experiences both as a graffiti writer and an ostensible criminal. For a number of years, de Beer was not legally allowed to possess art-making materials, and served additional time after refusing to obey this condition. He is now legally allowed to make art. de Beer has shown work locally at Anna Kaplan Contemporary (formerly BT&C Gallery), the Cass Project at 500 Seneca and currently has work on view at the Hotel Henry as part of The Corridors Gallery: A Resource:Art Project. de Beer lives and works in Buffalo.
Sheperd is a self-taught artist and urban scavenger. The series by Sheperd included in In a Better Place was born from the artist’s intense interest in material decay, especially of metal signage in particular. Over the past several years, he has set out to collect metal detritus across the city of Buffalo—mostly rusted out, obsolete signage from junk yards, abandoned factories and dumpsters. He has always been drawn to the decay of metal and paint in outdoor environments. This body of work has allowed him to focus on the process of this decay in an attempt to harness it towards his own aesthetic aims. Sheperd recently had a different body of work on view at Argus Gallery, his first solo exhibition in the area and first formal exhibition opportunity of any kind in a traditional gallery setting. Sheperd splits his time between Buffalo and New York City.
RESOURCE:ART fine art consultancy group is a unique collaboration that brings together the talents of three independent Western New York gallerists: Anna Kaplan (Anna Kaplan Contemporary, formerly BT&C Gallery), Elisabeth Samuels (Indigo Art), and Emily Tucker (Benjaman Contemporary). Kaplan, Samuels, and Tucker each have extensive curatorial experience and professional relationships with artists working in a wide range of media. RESOURCE:ART also manages the execution of site-specific fine art and considers every project as a unique collaboration between the artist and the site, navigating aesthetic, formal, and functional concerns. RESOURCE:ART’s most recent project is an extensive exhibition including work by 20 WNY artists at the Hotel Henry in Buffalo. www.resourceartny.com for more information.