Suzanne McClelland: left
Sue Scott Gallery is pleased to announce a show of new work by Suzanne McClelland, left, an exhibition of paintings, video and site-specific installation. With this show, McClelland continues to investigate the space between script and physical gesture, making and unmaking what’s left in the air after action or speech. McClelland explores the popular musical tradition of rivalrous “answer” songs, where one artist creates work in response to another, as in the classic example of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, a direct response to Neil Young’s Southern Man or Mannish Boy, by Muddy Waters, a response to Bo Diddley’s I’m a Man, in itself a response to an earlier Muddy Waters song I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man.
In the mid-eighties and early nineties, listening to rap and hip hop, McClelland was inspired not only by the powerful use of physical gesture and language but by the way the message and the material were intertwined and how musicians/poets allow the words to function as lyric, percussion and melody. The work of rap artists such as BWP, YoYo, Da Brat and MC Lyte set the stage for her to use language as the structure for painting. At that time the New York radio waves and local clubs aired the Roxanne Wars, a series of hip hop rivalries, giving rise to, some say, the most “answer” songs in recorded history. McClelland, in her act of creating a gestural painting, then its counterpart, ends up with a group of “answer” painting duos.
After McClelland’s site-specific installation, Right (Painting), 1992, at the Altria Space of the Whitney Museum of American Art in midtown Manhattan, McClelland “answers” herself. Thelma Golden, curator of the 1992 Altria space, pointed out that Right (Painting) was about “the ambiguous meanings of response.” If so, then left examines what is left behind, left over and what we are left with when we stand in front of an abandoned painting that is complete. Painting and speech can be slippery—their meanings constantly defined by history and context and yesterday’s right can be tomorrow’s left.
McClelland also explores the idea in video format, answering Dara Birnbaum’s influential 1979 Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman. In the TV series, Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman always took a warm-up left turn before her signature swirling transformation. This brief, pirouetting left turn is left out of Birnbaum’s work, and is not immediately apparent to the visible eye in its original format. McClelland looks closely at the moments before transformation, focusing on the preparation and gathering of momentum.
McClelland has work in the permanent collection of more than twenty museums and foundations around the country including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Art Center, the Norton Museum of Art, Neuberger Museum of Art, Miami Art Museum, the Margulies Collection, the Rubell Family Collection, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Orlando Museum of Art. Grants and awards include Anonymous Was A Woman Award, Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Art, AXA Artist Award and a Pollock Krasner Award. McClelland lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. This is her second solo exhibition at the gallery.