EXHIBITION: AMERICAN BERSERK
Burning in Water is pleased to present American Berserk, a solo exhibition of new work by the Brooklyn-based artist Valerie Hegarty. American Berserk is Hegarty’s first solo exhibition in New York City since her acclaimed Alternative Histories at the Brooklyn Museum in 2013. Throughout her career, Valerie Hegarty has explored fundamental themes of American history and particularly the legacy of 19th-century American art, addressing topics such as colonization, slavery, Manifest Destiny, nationalism and environmental degradation in her work. Elaborating upon visual references to the art-historical canon of North America, Hegarty repurposes the ideological tenets of such works into a critical examination of the American legacy.
The title of the current exhibition is borrowed from Philip Roth’s Pulitizer-winning novel American Pastoral, in which Roth defines the inverse of the American pastoral ideal as the “indigenous American Berserk.” The show features a series of recent watercolor paintings and four groups of ceramic sculptures. The suite of watercolors suggests a fevered, hallucinatory vision of America examined through the prism of its visual artistic traditions. Hegarty’s anarchic, revisionist take on American history as manifested in the nation’s artistic legacy is further embodied in her fantastical ceramic works. The sculptures, which seem imported from a parallel universe, include watermelons that become animated, explode and then decay, sly depictions of George Washington as a series of topiaries, spectral clipper ships erected from bones and an assortment of “fruit face” personae that survey the surreal proceedings.
American Berserk is on view through January 28, 2017.
Rotting, wounded, smiling--watermelons in Valerie Hegarty's latest exhibition of paintings and sculptures--are depicted as sentient objects: carnal, threatening. Several wedges of the fruit, done in ceramics, rest on a plinth, their pink flesh resembling gums and growing teeth, tongues, ribs, stalagmites, barnacles.
I am always interested in talking about transformation," Hegarty said one recent afternoon in her studio in midtown Manhattan, surrounded by a sinister set of anthropomorphic fruits-- tooth-filled watermelons rinds, spinal carrot carcasses and some Arcimboldo-style faces. The pieces are a morbid answer to kitschy centerpieces of yesteryear, now robbed of their evergreen freshness.
[Art Basel Miami] features works by several artists working in the same vein...that is, making figurative ceramic work that plays with scale and tone, or that uses the handcrafted medium to imbue typically inanimate objects with inner life. [A] shining example of this approach are the playful food sculptures by Valerie Hegarty that are on view in Miami gallery Locust Projects' booth.
[Hegarty's] work is topical, as it is informed by the 'current turbulent state of our country while also excavating from America's past.' What we're seeing here couldn't be described as decay, as such, but her work seems to have a theme of the gooey-ness of information, of shared knowledge. We live in a post-fact society and consensus validation is gospel. That, of course, leads to strange distortions of the truth--things that resemble fact, but are wholly alien to reality.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a sculpture by artist Valerie Hegarty, Return to the Catskills. An amalgamation of canvas, paint and moss, the piece is nature-art hybridity depicting a moss-covered tree (and a small woodpecker) devouring a painting. Malin says that the piece "directly attacks the idea of the landscape that exists outside the ravages of time and the impact of society."
Valerie Hegarty (b. 1967, Burlington, VT) is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work frequently employs critical engagement with American history and addresses themes of memory, place and art historical legacy through painting, sculpture and large-scale installations. Previous solo exhibitions include Nicelle Beauchene, NY; Marlborough Gallery, NY; Locust Projects, Miami; Museum 52, London; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and Guild & Greyshkul, NY. She has completed public commissions for the High Line in NYC and the Brooklyn Museum. Hegarty’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Perez Art Museum Miami, the Saatchi Gallery, the New Britain Museum of American Art, the Portland Museum of Art, the Tang Musem and the Wadsworth Atheneum.
Hegarty received her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received grants and awards from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, The New York Foundation for the Arts, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation, the Tiffany Foundation and Campari NY. She has completed residencies at LMCC, Marie Walsh Sharpe, PS 122, MacDowell, Yaddo and Smack Mellon, and she served as the first Andrew W. Mellon Arts and the Common Good Artist-in-Residence at Drew University.