Josh Keyes‘s new solo exhibition, Sprout, will be on display at the David B. Smith Gallery (located at 825 Santa Fe Drive), beginning May 30th through July 3rd. Presenting a series of new paintings with a focus on the theme of overgrowth, Sprout delves into Keyes’s vocabulary of imagery, intertwining animals and objects to create a simultaneously mysterious and unsettling juxtaposition between the natural and the manmade landscape. Keyes’s body of work conveys anxious and realistic visions of a possible future due to current global warming predictions.
These paintings are an imaginative and playful response to Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us, in which the natural world gradually reclaims the Earth’s manmade structures in the event that humans were to disappear. This particular concept inspired Keyes to portray a world overgrown, utilizing the imagery of animals roaming through dystopic gardens. This is evident in “Scorch II,” a scene that depicts four deer emerging from a fiery sedan, antlers ablaze. Though engulfed in flames, the animals remain stoic and stare back in an accusatory fashion. Keyes’s paintings reference the political, economic, and ecological tensions that are omnipresent in the world today.
In addition to new paintings, Sprout will feature an interactive sculptural piece inspired by an amorphous object that Keyes had encountered while visiting the Art Institute of Chicago Museum. The Boli, a handmade artifact by the Bamana People of the West Africa, takes the form of an unidentifiable creature. Composed of a wooden armature “core” wrapped in white cotton cloth, layers of clay and sacrificial material (goat and chicken blood, chewed and kola nuts, alcoholic beverages, honey, metal, animal bones, vegetable matter, millet) are added over time to create an encrusted surface. Each added layer is meant to afford the Boli greater spiritual power. It is said that each element added to the structure symbolizes various parts of the universe; the whole can be read as a model of the Bamanas’ cosmological belief. Sprout will feature Keyes’s personal interpretation of the Boli, inviting the viewer to become a participant in the additive process of creating the external form of the piece. Instead of the traditional elements of blood and animal bones, soil and seeds will be available to apply to the surface of the sculpture. The seeds placed on the surface will gradually sprout and grow throughout the duration of the show. By combining community, ritual, and participation, this process will bring an end result of growth and regeneration.
The opening reception will take place on Saturday, May 30th, from 7-10 PM.