Claire Oliver Gallery is currently hosting Rules to Live By, new works from Australian artist Matthew Sleeth. This is Sleeth’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery.
In Rules to Live By, Sleeth seeks to draw attention to how signs program us to behave in a prescribed manner. By adopting their form and aesthetic while misappropriating their ideology, the artist has constructed a series of sculptural works that question the dogma of a politically correct society.
With this new body of work, the artist suggests we delve beyond superficiality for a deeper meaning in life. The texts featured in these works are sourced from a combination of found, combined, appropriated or completely invented signs or instructions.
Rules to Live By builds directly from Sleeth’s pivotal 2011 installation, The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization (And Other Obvious Metaphors), which was also exhibited at Claire Oliver. The Rise and Fall encompased a 120 foot, three-ton concrete and plywood sculpture, representing a freeway system arcing through space (and rising from knee height to over 12 feet in the air) with a road surface populated with various signs, images and objects. Inspired by the public response to the messages portrayed in that installation, Sleeth choose to expand on the irony of the impact mass media has on the population at large.
Sleeth explains, “Over many years, I have explored concepts of ‘algorithmic control’ in my work. I have been particularly interested in signs as a cultural iconography; I am both seduced by their elegance and uneasy with their Orwellian effectiveness.”
“These roadmaps of sorts are the rules we live by; they are the software that controls the way we negotiate our environment. I have long been fascinated by these sets of instructions that hold such sway over us. Why is it so difficult to ignore a sign?”
The contested behaviors being negotiated in each sign are either encouraged or discouraged by the assumptions embedded or coded in the text. Many of the conventions explored in these works depend on a range of cultural assumptions in order to function. Part of the rationale of this project is to make these assumptions visible through the process of pattern recognition within and between the insignias.
The images in Rules We Live By appropriate the formal qualities and exacting methods of fabrication of their cultural referents. The viewer is meant to recognize the codes of persuasion being used in each work and how these refer to the social contexts from which they are drawn.
Matthew Sleeth’s Rules to Live By will be on Exhibit Through December 3rd, 2016 at Claire Oliver Gallery, Located at 513 West 26th Street in the Chelsea Gallery District.