Opening October 3
Steve Kelly – Brutal

Opening Reception Thursday, October 3, 2019, 6-9 pm

About Brutal
Clerestory Fine Art presents large-scale mixed media work by Montclair native Steve Kelly. Like Kelly’s sculptural paintings, the simple title — “brutal” — strikes viewers as confrontational, but upon closer examination it’s meaning is both layered and complex. Associations with the French word “brut,” include “raw,” “crude,” “feral,” and “animalistic.” In this complex sense of brutality, Kelly’s work illustrates dichotomy between animal instinct and meticulous form. He incorporates physical objects such as commercial ads, pornography, cigarettes, plastic bags, caution tape, money, and printed reproductions, crumpling then lacquering them to create exquisite sculptural surfaces paired with layers of traditional oil painting and energetic splashes of color. These forms come together to create a unique and identifiable aesthetic, simultaneously evoking references to graffiti, the textural pop-art of Robert Rauschenberg, the playfulness of Keith Haring, and the physicality of Ushio Shinohara’s boxing paintings.

Self-identity in the digital age, where artists in particular are understood through their social media presence, presents a psychosis unique to this era. Kelly describes his work as a “comment on the absurdity of everyday life and modern-day trends.” This exhibition reckons with anxiety and identity by giving those ineffable concepts physical form. The form is “brutal” in the sense that it's the output of “raw” mental states, rather than a refined meditation on them. Kelly's platform becomes, in itself, a commentary on the challenges media platforms post in constructing ourselves in the 21st century.

Steve Kelly was born in Montclair, NJ and received a B.F.A. from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2012. His body of work ranges from bold, abstract collages to large-scale figurative oil paintings. Both distinct styles evoke similar emotions. While using bright colors and images from popular culture, Kelly’s work is a comment on the absurdity of everyday life and modern trends. In 2015, Steve co-founded Art & Prozak, a traveling collective of artists who produce and curate art exhibitions throughout New Jersey and New York. With Steve as head curator and featured “house artist” of Art & Prozak, the collective produces multiple shows a year, featuring many new artists across multiple genres. In 2018, the collective set up a four-day interactive exhibition as part of the Newark Arts Festival, displaying work from eighteen different artists, including writers, visual artists, and musicians. Aside from producing and exhibiting work, Kelly spends the rest of his time making commissioned work for clients.
The exhibition runs through November 15, 2019.

Exhibition catalogue
Exhibition press release