Seeing a bustling crowd of young people milling about outside a Chelsea gallery often means one thing to a passerby: free drinks. But what of the occasions when the alcohol is not haphazardly flowing out the front door of the space? Could it really be that all these people were here to see (gasp!) the Art? In the case of Jacolby Satterwhite, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” Although Satterwhite’s show now open at Monya Rowe Gallery was initially hard to see through all the viewers, this proved to be an artist who rightly garners such excited attention.
His current work builds on selections from a large portfolio of drawings cataloging everyday and imagined objects, which was created by the artist’s mother who suffers from schizophrenia. The drawings are composed of busy line work casting everything from combs and cell phones to guitars and bustier into crystalline structures. Initially created to be therapeutic for her, they have also become a serious goldmine of inspiration for her artist son.
Mental Illness Channeled into Art
Grabbing fistfuls of the drawings along with prints of snapshot-style family pictures, Satterwhite passes these materials through the aesthetic meat grinder of his mind, thrusting a mix of real family memory into the fantastical world that is his video and performance work. He has meticulously rendered the drawings from the page onto the computer screen, preserving the raw nature of his mother’s expression while launching the objects headlong into a world of brightly colored tubular architecture, lasers, and sexuality.
The result is a gorgeous blend of fancy and reality, which continues to unfold outward from itself the longer the viewer is able to look from piece to piece. Seemingly disparate at first, collections of screen prints, computer generated stills, and video are clustered beside each other on the gallery wall. It is the video work that serves as a perfect time space continuum for the artist to bring all of his influences together.
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