Steven Shearer opening at the Brant Foundation. All photos by Nadia Palon for Art Observed
On November 13th, a survey of work from Canadian artist, Steven Shearer, opened at the Brant Foundation. Set on Peter Brant’s estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, the vibrant opening welcomed art enthusiasts for the second of the Foundation’s bi-annual exhibitions. Featuring paintings, collages, drawings, and poems set out across multiple rooms, the explored Shearer’s ongoing investigations and depictions of youth culture and alienation.
Although the works highlight Shearer’s own teenage grunge phase in Vancouver, they are far from rote juvenilia. Images of carefree boys brandishing guitars and of girls clutching a cord telephone are beyond formative artistic fascination, forming a snapshot of youthful languor that carries a universal resonance. Shearer recreates the memories of his own adolescence by piecing together images of what he remembers: long, lanky hair, chunky desk computers, VCRs, and plaid couches. The collages of seemingly disparate subjects are a physical representation of the inner machinations of the artist’s mind. As Shearer recollects through the art, the final products become archetypal of youth. Whether or not the viewer’s adolescence included the same accoutrements as Shearer’s, the ennui is ubiquitous.
In Shearer’s collages, the central theme of adolescent grunge culture introduces a duality that not only emanates a soft nostalgia, but also questions what we, the viewers, idealize. Shearer’s work asks why memory is composed of remnants that form an ideal and whether it is possible or not to unearth the forgotten details, an aesthetic venture that encourages the viewer to ask himself, “How does one de-romanticize memory?”
His paintings convey this message just as well as his composite images. The androgyny of his figures and the wispy shapes swirling around them illustrate the idealization of self, how we fix our appearance for others. Just as when one pares down the details of life in order to forge an optimal memory, so does one emphasize the ideal and downplay the imperfect.
Steven Shearer’s show at the Brant Foundation is open through March 2017.
The Brant Foundation Exhibition Page