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Rudy Shepherd's solo exhibition features several bodies of work that are part of the
artist's ongoing investigation into the nature of evil. His portrait series depict the faces of
criminals and victims of crime. Making no visual distinctions between the two, the artist
explores the complexity of their stories and the gray areas between innocence and guilt.
In this way, Trayvon Martin, Kim Jong-un, Heather Heyer, and Steve Bannon are all
depicted in the group. By presenting the individuals first and their stories second,
Shepherd attempts to create a space for humanity to be reinserted into the lives of
people who have been reduced to mere headlines in the press.

Another recent painting series draws heavily on poignant moments from news sources,
attempting to reconsider fleeting, sensational images in our collective consciousness in a
more nuanced, complex way. Examples include a limousine set ablaze by the Black Bloc
during Donald Trump’s inauguration, a car plowing into a crowd of protesters in
Charlottesville, Virginia, and Alan Kurdi, a three-year- old Syrian refugee found dead on
the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

As a counterpoint to the paintings, Shepherd's monumental Black Rock Negative Energy
Absorber sculpture and his small-scale ceramics, called Healing Devices, serve as a
counter-point to what can seem like vast unsolvable problems by offering a spiritual
solution. However, their unknown application questions the belief in art and the power of
belief. The Healer, an outgrowth of the sculptural work, is a mystical being who appears
in a series of videos. The figure moves through the world in a state of detachment,
leading the viewer to contemplate intermediate spaces—those that lie between binaries
such as good and evil—and serves as a surrogate for the artist, enabling him to explore
feelings of social and political frustration, isolation, and impotence.

A new cycle of paintings, The Holy Mountain Project, portrays revered peaks as symbols
of humankind's journey toward a heightened form of spiritual awareness. Inspired by the
final chapter of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s 1973 film The Holy Mountain, Shepherd’s group
of paintings is another portrait series of sorts, depicting singular landforms from all over
the world.


The title of Shepherd’s exhibition, Everything in the Universe is My Brother, also reflects
the sense of spiritual investigation in his work. It is the title of a poem by Sun Ra, the
jazz composer, musician, poet, and philosopher. Considered a pioneer of Afrofuturism,
Sun Ra is cited by Shepherd as an important influence. Indeed, Shepherd’s wide-
ranging body of work reveals an ongoing search for deeper associations. It reveals an
artist who sees that all beings, objects, landscapes, and matter are interconnected in the
universe.

Theresa Ganz
Wave Room

Theresa Ganz's Wave Room is a meditation on how humans cope when the social order is threatened by cataclysmic events such as natural disaster, war, or political crisis. Lining the walls of the space are digitally collaged, printed images of ancient Roman towns destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius; these are layered over with video projections of the storm surge from recent hurricanes, and a soundtrack of an electronically processed excerpt from Wagner's "Twilight of the Gods," the final installment of the Ring Cycle, fills the room. Through this immersive, multi-media installation, visitors experience a city lost at sea.

 

Image caption:
(LEFT) Wave Room (detail), 2017multi-media installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (RIGHT) Limousine burned by the Black Bloc during the presidential inauguration, 2017 Watercolor on paper, 38 x 42 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

These exhibitions are supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Iorio Charitable Foundation, Select Equity Group Foundation, many individuals and Smack Mellon's Members.

Smack Mellon's programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and with generous support from The New York Community Trust, The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Jerome Foundation, The Greenwich Collection Ltd, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., Brooklyn Arts Council, and Exploring The Arts.

Rudy Shepherd thanks the Pennsylvania State University College of Art and Architecture for their financial support of his exhibition.

Theresa Ganz thanks the Brown Arts Initiative for their financial support of her exhibition.

Space for Smack Mellon's programs is generously provided by the Walentas family and Two Trees Management.

 

 

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