Clerestory Fine Art Presents Brutal by Steve Kelly


Baristanet Staff -

September 30, 2019

Clerestory Fine Art presents Brutal, large-scale mixed media work by Montclair native Steve Kelly. Opening reception, Thursday, October 3.

Like Kelly’s sculptural paintings, the simple title — “brutal” — strikes viewers as confrontational, but upon closer examination it’s meaning is both layered and complex. Associations with the french word “brut,” include “raw,” “crude,” “feral,” and “animalistic.” In this complex sense of brutality, Kelly’s work illustrates dichotomy between animal instinct and meticulous form. He incorporates physical objects such as commercial ads, pornography, cigarettes, plastic bags, caution tape, money, and printed reproductions, crumpling then lacquering them to create exquisite sculptural surfaces paired with layers of traditional oil painting and energetic splashes of color. These forms come together to create a unique and identifiable aesthetic, simultaneously evoking references to graffiti, the textural pop-art of Robert Rauschenberg, the playfulness of Keith Haring, and the physicality of Ushio Shinohara’s boxing paintings.

Self-identity in the digital age, where artists in particular are understood through their social media presence, presents a psychosis unique to this era. Kelly describes his work as a “comment on the absurdity of everyday life and modern-day trends.” This exhibition reckons with anxiety and identity by giving those ineffable concepts physical form. The form is “brutal” in the sense that it’s the output of “raw” mental states, rather than a refined meditation on them. Kelly’s platform becomes, in itself, a commentary on the challenges media platforms post in constructing ourselves in the 21st century.