In her first major exhibition outside of the U.S., artist Amy Sherald (previously) presents a body of work that’s distinctly American. The World We Make, which is now on view, brings Sherald’s signature grisaille portraiture to Hauser & Wirth London. Monumental in scale and primarily rendered on flat, monochromatic backdrops, the oil paintings reference a sense of determined optimism to shape reality. “The works reflect a desire to record life as I see it and as I feel it. My eyes search for people who are and who have the kind of light that provides the present and the future with hope,” the artist says.
Included in the exhibition is a strikingly subversive interpretation of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s black-and-white photo “V-J Day in Times Square,” which shows a Navy sailor dipping and kissing a woman following Japan’s surrender in WWII. In Sherald’s “For love, and for country,” two men dressed in mariner garb embrace in a similar pose, subverting the iconic image of U.S. victory, while illuminating the inequities that Black, gay men in the military face still today.
Questions of masculinity and American identity pervade the show, particularly in works like “A God Blessed Land (Empire of Dirt),” which positions an overall-clad farmer atop a John Deere tractor. This agricultural equipment echoes the themes of freedom and movement in Sherald’s “Deliverance” diptych that features two figures balancing on their dirt bikes as they perilously soar mid-air. “The tractor and motorbike paintings explore different expressions of self-sovereignty in our communities and how these expressions might carry into the future. Vehicles become a literal metaphor here for forward momentum, for movement, and potential movement,” Sherald says.
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