STILL LIVES: A Solo Exhibition by Derek Weisberg @ Swivel Gallery, Brooklyn
“Flowers bloom for only a short time, so their beauty is of brief duration. So it is with the life of man, which like a flower is bound by time.” —Sam Segal
Swivel Gallery is pleased to present STILL LIVES, a solo exhibition of new sculptures from Brooklyn-based artist Derek Weisberg. Composed primarily of two distinct styles of works, the exhibition considers the transitory nature of existence and the relentless, inevitability of time. Weisberg’s on-going series of “life masks” adorn the rippled walls of the gallery and are created in direct response to the funeral death masks of the Victorian era. This was the practice of casting the deceased face in plaster to preserve the likeness of loved ones, death masks were kept as haunting reminders of mortality, apropos for the grandiose culture of Victorian mourning. In Weisberg’s case, his life masks serve as a tool for intuitive expression and uninhibited creation as they are made on his living body.
Each work is sculpted blindly as the artist lays thin slabs of clay over his face and transforms the material, changing its properties to something of that like paper or fabric. The mask is then folded onto itself, torn and bent, resulting in a unique, one-of-a-kind work. The transformation is not unlike the transformation of life to death, revealing how little control we really have, how short-lived and brief moments truly are. A true materialistic collaboration at its core, Weisberg has submitted to the material, allowing it to take form in whatever way it sees fit. Each expression, movement and gesture is embalmed in the material, acting as a sort of emotional record of the artist’s own experiences. Weisberg's work highlights the present, the importance of being present, alive, and in the moment, imploring viewers to reflect on their own self-awareness. Alongside the life masks will be a video works by the same title, created by Shaun Roberts in collaboration with Weisberg in 2015.
Continuing on discussions around ephemera and our cultural relationship to mortality, Weisberg’s series of stand-alone figurative vases surround the gallery with various floral arrangements protruding from their heads (flowers provided by Brooklyn Blooms). Wilting and decaying flowers are a common symbol in 17th century Dutch vanitas still life paintings, representing the fleeting and fragile nature of life. Through traditional methods and approaches, Weisberg’s vases aim to contribute to a long lineage of utilizing the figure to untangle larger philosophical questions..what is the nature of permanence? of life? of death? What is forever? What is beauty? What is fragility? STILL LIVES will be on view at SWIVEL Gallery in Brooklyn, NY April 3 - 28, 2021 with a limited opening reception on April 3 from 4-8pm. A collaborative ceramics workshop engaging the Bedusty community will also be activated at the gallery on April 10th and 24th, 2021.