It’s hard to estimate Leo Fitzpatrick’s impact on the course of Marlborough Contemporary’s programming. The director, who joined the gallery in 2015, has dipped his toes into any number of puddles over the course of his time with the gallery, yet always bringing an equally studied and adventurous approach to curation across the gallery’s two story exhibition space. The shows have twisted in and out of the gallery’s broader curatorial vision, pulling both from the deeper reaches of contemporary art history and from the gallery’s list of frequent collaborators. For his most recent exhibition project, BURNT, Fitzpatrick continues this trend, inviting a broad swath of artists to a show that manages to both unite diverse voices and focus them towards the modern American cultural landscape.
Fitzpatrick’s pedigree working first as an actor in Larry Clark’s KIDS on through his work with Home Alone Gallery seem to serve as an animating factor in the show’s compilation, combining frequent collaborators with a distinct focus on the slacker aesthetic of modern street and skate culture where Fitzpatrick first cut his teeth. Beer is recurring image here, from the stretched denim and Budweiser can of Wendy White’s American Bleach Effect (Budweiser) to the cartoonishly stylized foam of Justin Adian’s Beer Cans nearby, to another canvas featuring a graphic akin to a massive St. Ides Malt Liquor logo.
Similar subversive and countercultural threads are taken up in other forms nearby, from a skewed promotional t-shirt for GMC referencing the company’s hyper-capitalist and militaristic production lines simultaneously, while another wall is given over completely to Tony Hope‘s massive collection of ICP merchandise and memorabilia, an overwhelming wash of color and cartoonish iconography that feels like a distinct echo of the show’s rebellious spirit from a more populist perspective. Throughout, this sense of energy, both from within the traditional art discourse, and from outside it, seems to trade off in bursts and exchanges, as if the curator was seeking to unify both in a massive burst of enthusiasm and power.
Perhaps that’s the enduring contribution of Fitzpatrick’s work with the gallery, a position that has both cemented his credentials as a formidable show-maker, and underscored his ability to remain effortlessly clued-in to the landscape and atmosphere of the American present. Bringing together such diverse voices and ideas in a single show, Fitzpatrick’s ability to take the gallery to the street, and vice versa, deserves high praise.
The show closes June 16th.
— D. Creahan