Jeffrey Deitch | 76 Grand Street, New York
From November the 14th, 2019 to February the 1st, 2020
Swoon’s recent animations and drawings bring new life to her iconic street art portraiture. First seen around the Bowery in 1999, Swoon’s astonishing pasted paper silhouettes created a new form of street art.
Cicada marks a new development in Swoon’s practice. A celebration of rebirth and transformation, the exhibition at 76 Grand Street features recent films, drawings, and installations in which her personal story becomes more central.
Moving away from her street pasted portraits that encouraged the viewer to imagine a background story, Swoon now creates narratives that draw from her personal history as well as classical mythologies. She is also inspired by the handcrafted quality of silent era and 20th-century folkloric films. In her stop-motion animations, fragments of the subconscious coalesce into subliminal images. Open-ended stories unfold and weave recurring motifs such as birth, divination, trauma, and healing.
Swoon’s stop-motion films emphasize the body’s ability to serve as a vessel carrying memories and traditions. A house, a ship, and human figures split and open to liberate a cast of imaginative and mythological creatures trapped inside. The central figure is the “Tarantula Mother,” a half-human, half-spider allegory that evokes traumatic memories from childhood. Swoon’s response to parts of her family history – and the legacy of her parents’ addiction and substance abuse – has recurred throughout her work. These components inflict a strong element of realism to the films, grounding the otherwise- whimsical atmospheres of Cicada.
In Swoon’s work, the sea often constitutes the physical and metaphorical ground for possible encounters. In Cicada, underwater scenarios become a psychological space for introspection and subconscious explorations. Surrounded by new sculptures and her portrait series, Cicada allows viewers to immerse themselves into Swoon’s world, creating a vivid experience embedded in the present moment.
Swoon’s inner circle of friends is the subject of a new series of drawings included in the exhibition. The intimacy of these portraits recalls the romantic and humane spirit of her earlier street pasted works. A tableaux vivant of performers will accompany the exhibition on the opening night, renewing her interest in the counter culture of collectives and carnivals. Whether presented without permission or realized in a traditional gallery or institutional space, Swoon’s work connects with viewers on an emotional level.
Caledonia Dance Curry, aka Swoon, grew up in rural Florida and lives and works in Brooklyn, Panama, and other places such as Haiti, New Orleans, and Braddock Pennsylvania, where she builds collaborative community projects. Her work is included in international collections, such as the Museum of Modern Art, Brooklyn Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, and Tate Modern. Since she entered into the BFA program at Pratt Institute of Art in 1999, Swoon has been transforming the world with her signature wheat paste portraits throughout the streets of New York. In 2005, she realized her first immersive installation at Deitch Projects. Refusing to confine her practice to a single medium or context, Swoon’s exhibition at Deitch Projects presented an urban jungle of gritty, ephemeral architecture and cut-out figures that challenged the white space of the gallery. In 2008, she presented a second exhibition with Deitch Projects. Titled Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea, it included seven sculptures in the form of rafts that docked at the gallery’s riverfront Long Island City space after floating down the Hudson. This project signaled another shift in her artistic process by introducing a collaborative, community- based aspect to her large-scale works. After a decade since her last collaboration with Jeffrey Deitch, Cicada presets an ambitious new chapter in her story.
Installation photos Genevieve Hanson