Bradford Kessler “Become Gift, Sky Become Shadow”

Interstate Projects

poster for Bradford Kessler “Become Gift, Sky Become Shadow”

This event has ended.

Bradford Kessler’s exhibition, Become Gift, Sky Become Shadow, draws its source from Victor Flemming’s The Wizard of Oz. In the original 1939 edition, a dark figure swings in the backdrop of the enchanted forest for a brief shot. The official explanation by MGM Studios was that the anomaly was an exotic bird on loan from the Los Angeles Zoo, but in fact another story emerged, the shadow was the hanging body of a munchkin.

If we take Oz as a prototypical American myth ripe with narrative that reflects and reflexes the issues of prewar society, we can draw a multitude of critical conclusions. Dorothy as an American initiate and hero, the citizens of Oz’s as populist hysterics driven by institutional validation, liberty informed by the “unmasking” of the Wizard. No matter the implications, the story’s protagonist always reinforces the redemption and virtue of the individual. Navigating Kessler’s immersive installation, the viewer sets out on a similar journey. However, this route excavates the self-victimized, offering a mode of associations rooted in deviance, loss, anxiety and social repair.

This framework contains dual subjects, one localized in Oz and the other derived from personal recollection. As a child, the artist discovered a group of bird hatchlings sprawled across his asphalt driveway in the sweltering heat of a Kansas summer. Innocents tossed from one world to another; in response to their traumatic display of suffering, euthanasia was exacted. The event finds its residual reconstruction in Kessler’s new work, Sky Become Shadow. The bird—ever the symbol of new consciousness or spirit—is strapped between the past and a contemporary intersection of ethics, collective trauma, nihilism and manic aspiration.

The hope, pathos, and philosophy of the hero Dorothy’s journey are cut out. One can imagine an amphetamine-riddled Judy, skipping merrily down the road, driven to make her next mark. To enjoin Kessler’s dialogue is to acknowledge something amiss, not only with aspirational entertainment but also with the American psyche and the nature of intentionality and mythmaking itself.

-Wills Baker

Bradford Kessler (b. High Plains, Kansas, 1982) lives and works in New York. Kessler has had solo shows at 15 Orient, Brooklyn, Valentin, Paris; Ashes/Ashes, Los Angeles; and 247365, New York. Group shows include MonCheri, Brussels; False Flag, Queens; Springsteen, Baltimore; and Witte de With, Rotterdam. His work has been reviewed in Modern Painters, Mousse, CURA, Flash Art, Dis, Vulture, and The New York Times.

Wills Baker is an independent curator and scholar based in New York.



from September 20, 2019 to November 03, 2019

Opening Reception on 2019-09-20 from 18:00 to 21:00

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