American artist Clay Ketter is showing a new series of photographs and abstract paintings at Galerie Templon.
The artist's work, drawing on the history of artistic utopias as well as the realities of the craft world, has taken on a socio-political and existential dimension.
He created the series of Symmetric Settlements photographs by manipulating satellite images of American tract housing communities. The aerial views are duplicated, creating a perfectly symmetrical pattern that evokes French-style baroque gardens, drawings of mandalas or Rorschach tests. Clay Ketter acknowledges that he values the beauty of these forms, tenderly observing the mad striving upon perfection and safety they imply.
These ambiguous images paint the portrait of an introverted community that ends up excluding the outside world in its desire to protect itself. There are no prospects in the Settlements. The roads lead nowhere, other than the centre of a nightmarish garden of Eden (The Garden Revisited), at the heart of a monstrous and sealed-off system (Leviathan) where a life cycle based on work, consumption and sleep repeats endlessly.
The geometric collages covered with polished resin of the Courtyards series see Ketter reaffirming his desire to built flatness instead of paint flatness. We are reminded of a plan depicting areas between what could be seen as building sections or blocks. An art that is “a reinvention of the surface, of painting as an object” and that plays with “the idea of the painting as window”, in the words of art critic Sven Olov Wallenstein.
These closed-off compositions reflect the artist's fascination with enclosure and the finiteness of things: “Perhaps within the boundaries afforded by the picture, we can feel safe in an otherwise boundless and ever-expanding universe.”
Clay Ketter made a name for himself in the 1990s with his hybrid works using painting, building materials and photography. Abstract surfaces, with unexpected textures and a strange flatness, echo references to modernism, now poetic, now ironic.
Clay Ketter has been living in Sweden for the last twenty years but was born in the USA in 1967. His work follows in the American abstract painting tradition as shaped by artists from Jackson Pollock to Robert Ryman.
Stockholm's Moderna Museet held a major retrospective of his work in 2009.
Clay Ketter's art features in a wide range of public collections, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and Museum Moderner Kunst/ Stiftung Ludwig in Vienna, as well as in important private collections such as the Prada Foundation or the Saatchi Collection.