Suzanne McClelland is best known for incorporating language with vivid abstract compositions. Fusing energetic scrawls, drips, and splashes of paint with “found” dialogue and fragments of overheard conversations, she turns on end the context in which language is perceived and meaning is formed.
For this exhibition, McClelland continues her interest in giving visual form to the language and gestures that influence political and social exchange. Riffing off the word cede and its homonym seed, McClelland's hybrid presentation considers the many ways in which power shifts, separates, and grows. As in all her work, this newly conceived installation can be "read" on many levels and is meant to be experienced in a physically immersive way. It begins with a wide chalk board band that spans the circumference of the museum's second floor gallery and serves as a ground for over 300 poster-size inkjet prints, paintings, and spontaneous chalk drawings mounted in accumulated layers. The whole piece is splayed out at eye level like an unbound book so that one must actually walk the circle in order to read it.
Culling freely from a vast archive of contemporary source material, McClelland mixes words, images, and mediums in an unfolding rumination on the unruly, yet often calculated machinations that fuel our public life. Interspersed throughout the installation are multiple definitions and foreign translations of the word cede painted directly on the wall in McClelland's characteristic hand, excerpts from Ann Landers’ The Ten Commandments of How to Get Along with People, and names of top rappers of the 20th-century. Also included are a host of found images: handshakes between political leaders, pointing fingers of iconic figures throughout history, digitally merged portraits based on photographs of public figures with seemingly nothing in common—like Tammy Faye Baker and Newt Gingrich. McClelland deftly combines these unlikely pairings into singular images that zero in on shared hand gestures, rather than individual facial features further thwarting conventional readings of celebrity and power.
At the conclusion of the installation, one enters the museum’s Liddle Gallery where Carry On (2011), McClelland's video collaboration with artist Theresa Friess is projected onto a draped scrim originally from Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center. Combining an array of soundtracks and film footage including a music video by the early female rap artists Bytches With Problems performing "We Want Money" and Hans Namuth and Paul Falkenberg's documentary Jackson Pollock 51, McClelland’s Carry On underscores thematic connections related to language, mark, and physical gesture that are at the core of her installation presented in the museum’s main gallery.
Suzanne McClelland was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1959 and lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Every Inch of my Love at Team Gallery in New York City (2013); STrAY at University of Virginia Art Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia (2013); left at Sue Scott Gallery in New York City (2011); Scratch at Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago, Illinois (2010); and TOY at Galerie Andres Thalmann in Zurich, Switzerland (2010). Selected group exhibitions include Frieze Art Fair New York at Shane Campbell Gallery in Chicago, Illinois (2013); NYC 1993 Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City (2013); Kind of Blue at Larissa Goldston Gallery in New York City (2012); Loughelton Revisited, curated by Barbara Broughel at Winkleman Gallery in New York City (2012); Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts at American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York City (2012); and Art from the Heart at Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina (2012).
The exhibition is accompanied by a full-color brochure with an interview by Kate Gilmore.
The exhibitions and related publications are made possible with major support from the UAlbany Office of the President, Office of the Provost, The University at Albany Foundation, University Auxiliary Services, and the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation. Special thanks to the UAlbany Performing Arts Center for their generosity in loaning equipment for this exhibition.