STEPHEN DERRICKSONDANGER IN PARADISE
May 27 - June 25, 2022
Opening: Thursday, May 26, 6-8pm
Empire Expire, archival pigment print, 22"x32", 2020
Essex Flowers is pleased to present DANGER IN PARADISE, a survey of paintings, archival pigment prints, and sculpture by Stephen Derrickson. It is his first solo exhibition in New York City in 27 years.
The works in the exhibition, from five distinct bodies of work created between 1987 and 2022, coalesce in thematic unison as responses by the artist-activist to urgent political issues and world events of his day. The exhibition title is the eponym of the earliest work in the show, and the discomfiting backdrop for the smiling, neatly coiffed and buttoned-up young woman in tightly rendered pastel, from the Cinema Object series. In “Eleven Twenty Two Six Three,” (2003) from Sightings and Projections, the title is painted in a schoolboy’s best script, beneath a seemingly infinite horizon of sand, sky and ocean. It is simply the date that the source photo of the UFO was allegedly taken, also the date of JFK’s assassination and perhaps embedded in a boy’s memory as his first experience of loss of innocence. Three small paintings, “Bosnia,” (2014), “Yemen,” (2011) and “Indonesia,” (2012) are featured from Explodes: All the Countries Bombed by the USA in My Lifetime—a series that, sadly, incudes 28 paintings to date. (Derrickson was born in 1952.) “Free Pussy Riot,” (2015) a painterly homage to Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, represents a series titled Works: 2012-2015, while Derrickson’s New Work: 2020-2022 is represented by several framed, archival pigment prints and three sculptures. The new works combine words and images that both obscure and reveal one another in paradoxical narrative, like “posters for movies and covers for books that don’t exist.”
A “child of the bomb,” Derrickson came of age during the first Cold War, raised by a father who worked on the atom bomb project at Los Alamos, New Mexico during WWII. His work is profoundly influenced by a love of cinema, a habit of voracious reading, and rapt attention to the differences between political events as facts, and as reportage in the news media. His work activates the space between language and image, and behind the intentions in naming a thing. It is deadly playful.
“Once you see the words, you can’t unsee them.”
Stephen Derrickson grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and earned his BFA at Ohio University where he studied with Dennis Adams. He holds a Graduate degree in painting from Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia where he studied with Italo Scanga, David Pease and Stephen Greene. Derrickson was an Assistant Professor at the University of Texas in Austin from 1977 to 1984, where he taught painting, drawing, 20th century art history and exhibited his work regionally. From Texas he moved to New York City where he continued to paint and draw and exhibit his work, in L.A. and San Francisco, as well as New York. In 1995 he moved to the lower Hudson River Valley, and now lives in Woodstock, New York with his partner, artist Eileen Power. In addition to his continued painting, he is a practitioner and teacher of Shambhala Buddhism.