The Years Made Flies
The Years Made Flies is a culmination of Luther Price’s larger than life figurative work made between 1982-1985. With the exception of one large sculptural installation, Eat Fuck Live Shit Want Need - comprised of wall panels and eleven human and animal figures, made in 1986 - the work in the exhibition marked the end of the artist’s preoccupation with sculpture. Now largely known for his film and performance-based works, the exhibition reveals a prolific period when Price built out his recollections of childhood in the 1960s three-dimensionally. The works on view were made while Price was a student at Massachusetts College of Art and Design (the first independent public art college in the US), shortly prior to suffering a life-altering gunshot wound in Nicaragua in 1985. Speaking about the incident, Price says, “i died when i was 23… it wasn’t just my guts that spilled out that day….” If this early sculptural work provided a way to work through childhood trauma - the death of his aunt by an overdose on the day that Price was born - his spoiled bodies, dead babies, and birthing figures, formed by the process of layering fabric, dirt, plastic, and metal, also inadvertently serve as a haunting premonition of the woundmending the artist would endure as a young adult. He describes the period following the shooting, “I RETURNED BACK TO MASS ART THAT FALL ON CRUTCHES........WITH A HOLE IN MY SIDE, STUFFED WITH GAUZE.........THE DRESSING HAD TO BE CHANGED THREE TIMES A DAY, SO I USED THE NURSE’S OFFICE FOR THAT,....THE ONLY STERILE PLACE........FOR THAT..............AS THE SEMESTER WENT ON, I BECAME VERY SICK....THE WOUND WAS NOT HEALING................SO DURING XMAS BREAK I ADMITTED MYSELF BACK INTO THE HOSPITAL........THEY FOUND THE BULLET......AND REMOVED IT ...........IT WAS LODGED IN THE DARKNESS OF MY HIP ........NEVER CAME UP ON THE X-RAYS..........THE US OFFICIALS CONFISCATED MY MEDICAL RECORDS FROM NICARAGUA FROM THE DOCTOR WHO TRAVELED WITH ME BACK TO THE STATES.............SO, I NEVER HAD A CHANCE........THE DOCTORS NEVER KNEW THE BULLET WAS STILL INSIDE ME.......ROTTING AWAY MY BONE AND GUTS ........KILLING ME SLOWLY..........BY THIS TIME,....MUCH OF MY HIP HAD TURNED TO A PUSSY MUSH........... AND A LARGE PART OF MY LOWER INTESTINE HAD TO BE REMOVED AS WELL...........MY RIGHT LEG HAD GONE INTO COMPLETE ATROPHY...........AND THE NERVE DAMAGE WAS BEYOND REPAIR.................. BUT THE GOOD THING WAS,.......AFTER THEY TOOK THE BULLET OUT ........MY WOUND COMPLETELY HEALED IN 9 DAYS.................I WENT BACK TO SCHOOL IN THE SPRING SEMESTER.....STILL ON CRUTCHES............AND COMPLETED MY LAST LARGE SCULPTURAL PIECE............‘EAT FUCK LIVE SHIT WANT NEED’........1986.” Together with work from the ‘80s, The Years Made Flies will feature Price’s current series of handmade 35mm slides, Light Fractures, that incorporate film in an assemblage of detritus inscribed directly onto the film emulsion. The presence of a 1984 wall piece comprised of six large mixed media panels, Panel Piece I, functions as an intermediary of sorts; it evokes Price’s collage process instigated in the early sculptural work, now transposed into the assemblage of his 35mm handmade slides that the artist has been exhibiting over the past decade. Recording the conception of the wall piece in one of many sketchbooks unearthed from storage, he lists the combination of elements that constitutes a single panel; on a left hand page, in blue ball-point ink, the words “victim, box plastic, plastic flap, inside — meat” are written at the top and bottom of a small drawing of a figure framed within a square.
Bringing to mind his manipulation of film, where he presses dirt, hair, insects, and adhesive material between the glass plates of a slide, the multi-panel and other sculptural works in the exhibition signal a melancholy aggression—a corporeal decay that gives way to an autonomous new other, shaped by the years that made flies.
Luther Price lives and works in Revere, Massachusetts. His work in film, performance, and installation has been shown extensively, nationally and internationally. Recent exhibitions and film screenings include Luther Price Lost and Found, transmediale, Berlin, 2014; Now and Forever, CIRCUS Gallery, Berlin, 2013; How Deep is Your Love? Dirty Looks at MoMA/PS1, 2013; E’wao Kagoshima and Luther Price, Vilma Gold, London, 2013; James and Audrey Foster Prize, ICA, Boston, 2013; Luther Price Retrospective, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, curated by Ed Halter, 2013; Xavier Hufkens, Belgium, curated by Clarissa Dalrymple, 2013; Tom Rhoads (Luther Price), Dirty Looks at The Kitchen, New York, 2013; 7 Films by Luther Price, ICA, London, 2012; Second Nature: Abstract Photography Then and Now, DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, MA, 2012; #9, Callicoon Fine Arts, New York, 2012; Whitney Biennial, 2012; A Luther Price Bestiary, Views from the Avant-Garde, New York Film Festival, Curated by Mark McElhatten and Gavin Smith, 2012; Alone in the Dark: Projected Phobias, San Francisco Cinematheque, 2010. Earlier noteworthy participations include We Melt Away (A Walking Picture Palace of Ice), Light Industry, Brooklyn, NY, 2008; On The Collective for Living Cinema, Programmed by Mark McElhatten, Orchard, New York, 2007; Project Cotton Candy, with Katharine Finneran, Performa05 at Participant Inc, NY; The American Century: Art & Culture 1900–2000, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2000; Imitation Of Life, Thread Waxing Space, NY, 1999; Big as Life: An American History of Super8 Film, MoMA, NY, 1999; Clown, Total Mobile Home, San Francisco, 1994; Slow Shuffles, Fast Glances: New Work From Boston, curated by Saul Levine, San Francisco Cinematheque, 1990; among many other institutions and film festivals. Price studied Sculpture and Media/Performing Arts at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (BFA 1987) where he currently teaches.
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