The Brant Foundation Art Study Center • Greenwich, CT • brantfoundation.org • Through April 14, 2017
Steven Shearer, Newborn, 2014, oil on canvas, 2-parts, artist’s frame, 87 ¼ x 37 ¼” with frame. The Brant Foundation, Greenwich, CT. © Steven Shearer. Courtesy of the artist, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich, and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York. Collection Peter Morton, Los Angeles, CA.
The two-decade-long oeuvre of the Canadian artist Steven Shearer is the subject of an ambitious mid-career retrospective at The Brant Foundation. An avid collector of the artist’s multimedia work that elegantly weaves elements of nostalgia, loss and permanence, the Foundation brings together an ample range of artworks including drawings in ballpoint, oil and crayon as well as photography and print.
The Vancouver-based artist’s most emblematic works are his paintings of long-haired, contemplative, androgynous men who piercingly stare at their audience through hazy eyes. These realistic depictions of human physique and nature in rich color palettes are expressionistic in style and an homage to Fauvism. The figures, often sleeping or smoking, in swirling flows of smoke, are rendered demure and melancholic.
The vague and otherworldly narratives the artist employs for his figures enhance the ethereal and surreal feeling of the paintings. In Newborn, what appears at first as an androgynous human form evolves into an amputated sculpture placed on a high stool, while modest-sized paintings such as The Mauve Fauve and Night Train illustrate Munchian scenes in which warm and luscious tones of blue and purple complicate the subtle turbulence their models convey.
Shearer’s long-term interest in ‘70s and ‘80s rock music, and its aesthetic and sentimental essence, surface in these paintings of restless and frail males. His vast collection of imagery culled from online, magazines and his personal photos further Shearer’s nostalgia-imbued language. Thus, the artist utilizes the grunge and metal scene that heavily influenced him while growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, depicting teenage angst and masculine vulnerability. For example, photographs of ‘70s heartthrob Leif Garrett appear in multiple blown up prints reminiscing Andy Warhol’s screen prints of celebrities with their monochrome surfaces and juxtaposition of fame as a destructive force. Similar to Warhol, Shearer idolizes a child star whose career collapsed because of legal and personal battles. Scrap #2 is a photographic installation blanketing an entire wall with images containing anonymous narratives that feel equally familiar and aloof. Blending reality and fantasy, recollection and assumption, somber and joyous, the exhibition absorbs the audience into Shearer’s wistful universe.