Kenneth Shorr, a video artist, playwright, photographer, manipulator of found objects, large-scaled muralist and performance artist, donated a rich and diverse archive of artwork to the AP/RC. It will require several of these blogs to introduce the range of his vision represented in this collection but below is a start: a selection of sepia toned silver gelatin prints.
Shorr received an MFA from UCLA and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Arizona. In 2013 the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson organized a retrospective of his work.
This AP/RC selection of mostly sepia prints has a strong representation of polyptychs consisting of 4 images put together in a horizontal format from left to right (or right to left, perhaps). They suggest storyboards that urge viewers to squeeze out narratives. The darkness, the juxtapositions of imagery, and the strange subject matter evoke an imaginative mix of Samuel Beckett, Antonin Artaud and Edward Albee. Both the humor and drama of Shorr’s images elicit tentative, uneasy laughter and self-conscious confusion from their informal and unfocused or ambiguous quirkiness. The photographs are about many things but about nothing with clarity. Combined with an active disengagement from rarified craftsmanship, Shorr returns us to the dirt of the earth, takes us underground into crevices and dark corners.
The lack of clarity in Shorr’s images advances some indeterminate state of being. There is space and time but it is difficult to pinpoint. An inability to understand is an important dimension of his artworks–that emotional, intellectual, conceptual, sensual space where existence, meaning and relevance escapes or cannot be grasped; it is outside the boundary of each of us or does not exist at all. It is, for some, an uneasy state of being that celebrates uncertainty and the absence of enlightenment. Shorr’s image-making epitomizes the sentiment of Samuel Beckett’s observation (cited by David Hesla) that, to find a form that accommodates the mess, that is the task of the artist now.