Claire Oliver Gallery announces inaugural exhibition Who That Is? by artist Stan Squirewell, marking the artists’ debut at the gallery, on view March 25 – June 11, 2022. Through a ritualized process, Squirewell’s work examines who curates and controls the narratives that become accepted as history; from what perspective is history written, whose stories are told, and whose are neglected? Featuring more than 15 new works by the Louisville based artist, Who That Is? showcases works from Squirewell’s series While Shepherds Kept Their Watching, the creation of which is a summation of the multimedia artists’ practices of painting, photography, sculpture, and performance.
“As a child of the hip hop era, born in the 70s, growing up in the 80s and 90s, I look at my work as almost remixing, crate-digging, but my crates are museums, private collections, and historical narratives,” states Squirewell. “I remix my pieces according to my own way of writing history and who we are as people. My work exists as a veil between the spiritual and real world, it’s a bridge that offers a connection between the two.”
The works in the Discovery series are founded on the concept of character creation and a ritualized rebuilding of a new identity using the holy trinity of the artist’s work: painting, photography and sculpture. Squirewell uses found historic photographs of Black people, whose complex human identities have been erased either through time or through design, as a starting point.
He then layers collage, painting and photography with each new element undergoing a ritualized burning that is an abstracted nod to mythology, lore and Judeo-Christian rituals imbuing the character with a rebirth and acting as an offering to the spiritual world.
Squirewell then sculpts unique frames for each image, beginning with the transcription of a text statement on the work, composed of binary code, indigenous American and African glyphs using the shou sugi ban technique of blackening wood, which are then mitered into frames.
Squirewell’s own family history has been a driving influence for the artists after in his 20s, he learned that his ancestry was not what he had been told but actually included indigenous American roots. Looking back at census and enlistment records, it became apparent how racial, cultural, and ancestral origins become blurred or even erased, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. This inspired Squirewell to question historical perspectives, which are often presented as truth, and explore how we are taught simplified and singular narratives that disregard the complexities of contemporary identity.
Taking a closer look at the collage below, the image above shows the incredible and intricate detail found in each piece.
Stan Squirewell (b. 1978) is a painter, photographer, installation, and performance artist. Born and raised in Washington, DC in the Barry Farm neighborhood, just a few blocks away from The Nicholson Project, Squirewell established a serious art practice while working from his Harlem-based studio before moving to Louisville, KY where he currently lives and works.
Squirewell’s artistic training began at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Since graduating he has continued his tutelage under many of DC’s legends including artists Michael Platt and Lou Stovall. He holds an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art’s Hoffberger School of Painting (2007) where he studied under the late Grace Hartigan and is the first winner of the Rush Philanthropic and Bombay Sapphire Artisan series. He has performed with Nick Cave (SoundSuits) at the National Portrait Gallery, and Jefferson Pinder with G-Fine Arts. His work is held in private and public collections including the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore, MD, the Robert Steele Collection, and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, among others.
Stan Squirewell: Who That Is? will be on view from March 25 to June 11, 2022 at Claire Oliver Gallery, 2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, NYC. The artist will be in attendance on Friday, March 25th from 5-7pm.