Until 4 March, two exhibitions are being presented in Frank Taal Galerie in Rotterdam: a solo by the American artist Stephen J Shanabrook and a group exhibition with work by no less than twenty artists.
After his education at Syracuse University, the conceptual American artist Stephen J. Shanabrook completed a residency at the Ateliers in Amsterdam. In recent years, he has divided his time between the Netherlands, Russia and the United States: quite differing cultures. You could argue that the artist did not have an everyday childhood: he grew up the son of an obstetrician and a coroner and had a part-time job at the chocolate factory in the small Ohio town where he grew up.
In his practice, Shanabrook likes to push boundaries. He often works with unconventional materials like chocolate and cotton candy machines, as well as carcasses of animals, found materials and waste. In many cases, the artist uses these to say something about larger, significant themes such as religion, violence, addiction, the gun problem, the toxicity of the fashion industry and religion. For one of his earlier series, for example, he made chocolate casts of the fatal wounds of anonymous dead in Russian mortuaries, including a suicide bomber. For another series, he melted pill boxes of heavy drugs into Easter bunnies. Both the material and the shape of the end product evoke a certain degree of happiness, the maker is trying to say something about how both also symbolise larger problems: from addiction to (heavy) prescription drugs to religion and capitalism. For "Assaulted Landscape with Splattered Rivers and No Place to Hide," Shanabrook locked himself in a Plexiglas cube for several hours with an active paintball machine containing five thousand bullets, which were fired at the spectators, although they were protected by the Plexiglas.
In the exhibition at Frank Taal Galerie, Shanabrook shows his latest series "Trash Flowers", for which he extracted materials from waste containers in Russia and America. The background of the works is made up of found sintra, a material that is often used for advertising photographs, supplemented with the remains of silk flowers after the silk has been removed. The depicted flowers are in stark contrast to the dark reality that lies behind the ways in which we deal with waste — and by extension: the planet and the global south.
The artist is inspired in this by, among other things, the influential arte povera of the sixties and seventies, an originally Italian art movement in which artists resisted the commercialisation of the art world, among other things. On the one hand, materials were chosen that represented no financial value — such as earth or twigs — and on the other hand, the often perishable or immaterial art of these makers was often difficult to trade as a commercial product. The technical experiment also plays an important role in his practice.
Shanabrook's work has been exhibited worldwide, from the City Museum of Ljubljana to Musee d'art et d'histoire in Neuchatel. Together with Veronika Georgieva, he made advertising campaigns for Doctors without Borders and Comme des Garçons, among others.
Tip: In the simultaneously running exhibition CA$H in Frank Taal Galerie you will discover work by the following artists: Alban Karsten, Bram Braam, Daan den Houter, Daniel Mullen, David Dimichele, Gerben Mulder, Hester Scheurwater, Isabelle Borges, Jan ten Have, Lies Kraal, Marilou van Lierop, Mike Ottink, Pieter jan Martyn, Roderik Henderson, Marloes Roeper, Saminte Ekeland, Stef Rijs, Tom Woestenborghs, Tycho van Zomeren and Yisu Kim.
The exhibitions TRASH by Stephen J Shanabrook and the group exhibition CA$H will be on display at Frank Taal Galerie in Rotterdam until March 4, 2023.