UNDERLINE Gallery (238 W. 14th St.) proudly presents the first New York solo show of Jordan Sullivan, opening May 17, with a reception from 6:30-8:30pm. Sullivan will present a two-part installation exploring the nature, force, and rituals of memory through two narratives separated by seventy years.
The first narrative explores Sullivan's paternal grandparents and their time spent in World War II, where his grandparents incidentally met. His grandmother was in the Nurses Core, while his grandfather was a tank operator in the Battle of the Bulge. Their story is explored though photographs, sculptures, and material artifacts - both authentic and replicated. Images of POW's are printed on a soldier’s duffel bag, reconstituted alongside a hand-embroidered replica of a US Army medical blanket, and WWII medicine bottles filled with ashes of his grandmother’s memoir. In framing his grandparents’ relationship in the context of an oft-commemorated historical event, the Second World War, Sullivan widens the scope in which memory is conceived, sliding between individual and collective registers.
The second narrative finds Sullivan investigating - and sometimes interrogating - his own recent history through a series of Memory Studies. Photographs of friends, family, and lovers are inscribed with handwritten text - I'm drinking till I smell like my old man, with no thought of yesterday, no dream of tomorrow. We grew up to sound of factory whistles and train songs and on all the wrong roads. I'll work where my father worked and you'll cry the tears your mother cried and we'll swim in the lake that stole your brother, cause we didn't choose this town, and you didn't choose to be you, and I didn't chose to be me, and so we have no choice but to love one another. Juxtaposed with these images are ephemeral objects - burnt audio reels containing a recording of every sin Sullivan can remember committing, Sullivan's childhood guitar coated in black funeral flowers, and a series of landscape collages made from discarded photographs - each one recalling a different place the artist lived or passed through.
Each piece in Sullivan's installation adds another layer to the question of what it means to memorialize. Is remembering a passive process in which memories themselves lie dormant, waiting to be revealed, unveiled, or summoned? Or is it a creative act, in which the experiences represented by memories come into being through their very recollection?
During the exhibition, the Gallery’s gift shop will be transformed into a sound booth, allowing visitors to record their own events of historical significance. In honor of Memorial Day on May 28, these audio archives will be available to access and share through a storytelling site developed online.
"Natural History" never strays from Sullivan's core belief in the importance memory has in understanding where we came from and where we are going. In this sense, remembrance, for Sullivan, approximates the soul; it resides in relationships of love, friendship, and family.