We are pleased to present The Judgement of History, a series of new drawings by Irish born artist Conor McGrady. The opening reception will be held on Thursday, April 14, 7-9 pm.
Since early adulthood McGrady became convinced of the need for art to interrogate social and political realities. The artists who inspired him did not shirk away from depicting the ritualized violence and trauma that often besieged their everyday lives. Inheriting the aspirations of artists from Goya to the Neue Sachlichkeit, McGrady’s body of work focuses on the psychology of power in modern society.
The Judgement of History explores the role of authority and how it translates into symbols, iconography, and the self-conception of individuals and nation states. Large-scale gouache drawings depict figures of iconic stature situated within modernist and neo-classical architecture. In these works, groups of anonymous, mostly male figures perform social rituals as a unit in a joint effort against an unseen enemy, or they participate in a collective triumph over unseen victims. The white background and surrounding space, as well as the minimalist treatment of architecture imparts a distilled view of places that visually corresponds to political censorship and the state removal of dissidents, ideas or practices. Smaller works explore contemporary society’s fascination with power and status. In these, the relationship of the artist to the state comes under scrutiny, as does the architecture of government buildings, which functions as an ambiguous signifier of imagined permanence and stability, yet change and transition at the same time. A single work depicting a barricade serves as a reminder that not only political reality, but history itself, remains contested space.
McGrady’s work reprocesses the traditions of portraiture and history painting alongside fascist aesthetics and socialist realism. As with his previous work, these drawings raise questions on the various manifestations of social order, and on the control of space, personal and national boundaries.
Conor McGrady was born in Downpatrick in N. Ireland, and lives and works in New York City. He earned an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. Besides being exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, his work has been shown in a number of US and European institutions including White Columns, the Chicago Cultural Center, and Gallery Karas, Zagreb, Croatia. He is editor of Curated Spaces, a regular feature in the journal Radical History Review.