NEW YORK — Steve Keister’s latest exhibition Steve Keister: Post-Columbian, New Ceramic Reliefs and Fiberglass Sculpture from the 1980s at Mitchell Algus Gallery (New York, April 1–May 7, 2017) explores the artist’s use of nontraditional materials to explore abstract Mesoamerican inspired wall reliefs — a dramatic turn from the artist’s work creating so-called “Unidentified Suspended Objects.”
Above Image: Steve Keister, Night Flight, 2016, glaze, ceramic, acrylic, wood, found object, 17 x 17 x 18 inches.
Hyperallergic’s super interesting contextual read compared Keister’s work to a millenarian cargo cult, however, we don’t necessarily agree. Cargo Cult was a belief in a prophecy of the world’s end was being fulfilled; the result of a collision of radically different modern and indigenous cultures, Scientific American writes. However, rather than Keister emulating work from a technologically advanced society to accept this fate, in a reversal of history and roles, Keister uses new materials like styrofoam and dismantled mid-century modern chairs in new ways to evoke pre-Columbian imagery. Even so, we understand where John Yau of Hyperallergic was going: As the prophetic “flying pigs” and information receiving antennae appeared to the indigenous cultures of New Guinea, Fiji and the Solomons, Keister’s work takes on a magical quality:
[He] turns the poison of our styrofoam packaging into household gods, figures that remain other and remote, even as they sit on our walls looking at us with indecipherable expressions. By assembling them out of diverse parts, and, in some cases, placing them within a tubular frame, they regain some semblance of their psychic power. With these figures, Keister imagines an outcome different from what happened, suggesting that the story is perhaps not over.
It is the process described above that sets Keister’s work apart making him a unique, curious, idiosyncratic, baffling, and challenging artist, Hyperallergic writes.
When Keister first moved away from his USOs, he also changed his materials and methods, exchanging wood, paint, fluorescent paint, and such non-art materials as fake fur, leather, sheets of colored plastic, and rubber, in favor of spandex, fiberglass, Bondo, and found objects.
His ceramic Bat and supreme creative Ometoetl plaque’s are perfect examples of his puzzle-like employment of unique materials.
Keister makes the sculptures by fitting distinct ceramic pieces together. While Ometeotl is made of a handful of parts, “Bat III” (2015) is assembled out of dozens of pieces, each glazed a particular color, sometimes two. Again, you drift between sources and outcome, contemplating a figure that is absent anything that would soften it or make it friendlier: it is a bat and it is the other, and there is something menacing about it.
Images Courtesy: Mitchell Algus Gallery
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