September 21—October 22, 2022
James Fuentes is pleased to present Keegan Monaghan, Indicator, the artist’s third solo exhibition at the gallery.
Sidewalk, grate, outlet, floor. Consider in each of these new paintings by Keegan Monaghan a subject so tightly cropped it becomes a quiet enigma as seen from outside, a world built upon the foundations of either what we can’t see, or of only what we can. There’s an air vent beyond which is uncomprehended, or the inverse operation: a street lamp right in our face, plain yet foreboding. The larger process binding these stages of surface and depth could be called world-building.
World-building creates a paradigmatic regularity: the paradigm as system iterated through time. World-building means developing an internal consistency, integrating the whole into the sum of its parts. Ultimately, a world’s clarity of vision is measured through its distance from all that lies outside it. To this end, Keegan’s paintings are the slow accretions of a palette on wheels. They emerge together in his studio, each responding simultaneously to the tenor of its neighbors until their cadences resound. Finally, the world of the paintings, declared finished, becomes coextensive with our viewership. Which isn’t to say we’re taken in—we walk into the room and bend ourselves imperfectly toward their relations. The gas line markings on the sidewalk are like runes, their indications both mysterious and inviting, and this quality spreads across paintings as the impasto grows. Put another way, a calibration—this daytime sidewalk leads to that nighttime streetlamp in a virtual sleight of hand. Their physics are shared, though absent a larger context, we can’t quite follow where they lead.
Can accretion make a hole? Keegan describes his paintings as, initially, a set of mistakes he digs and digs through. The paintings are parts of a (w)hole, a dirty ball that is the earth shot through the exigencies of mind, some remote HQ. They reach in as they reference out. Keegan’s studio is windowless and the light of his canvases therefore ideal, an ideality we never meet, an answer as to why this world is not familiar so much as recognizable in an intersected flash of vision come and gone. Gone for us, yet these paintings are artifacts of habitual memory—that is, of objects seen habitually in space and paintings rendered habitually across time. It’s about what the painter always sees when walking, and what he always does once he’s arrived, and how we can and cannot fathom this.
Ever toured the Hoover Dam? The thrill and terror of human ingenuity as expressed most dramatically through industrial complexes, the dislocation between what the guide tells you is yours but that you don’t quite understand? The union of all technological achievements through human standard time, on display as History, is present in Keegan’s work, but so too is a rejection of all declamation and critique and of all the frameworks such practices necessitate. Commentary, sociopolitical and otherwise, stands silent from the painting’s outlook. While mired within it, these paintings also lie beyond all that worrying and waiting, in the womb-like placidity a finger might reach, or a patient ear, so that what appears bright-hot and catastrophic is also cool in its function, rough in texture while in smooth possession of its space. As for mixing metaphors, it can’t be helped—sensorial slippage is a fundamental quality of Keegan’s paintings.
These are big paintings of small things, except for one small painting of a big thing—through the small grate in a small painting, the reflection of a large blue sky, the psychological expanse giving way to its external counterpart. There are shadows of houseplants from a bright window nearby, just entering our recognition from a world that is, despite its many entanglements, boldly ecstatic and clear.
Keegan Monaghan (b. 1986 in Evanston, IL) holds a BFA from The Cooper Union. His solo exhibitions include Threads and Incoming at James Fuentes, New York; Bowl of Food, Parker Gallery, Los Angeles; You decide to take a walk, On Stellar Rays, New York; and Total Recall, OLD ROOM, New York. He has been featured in the Whitney Biennial (2019) and in group exhibitions at venues including Candace Madey, White Columns, Simone Subal Gallery, On Stellar Rays, and OLD ROOM in New York. His work in included in the permanent collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Monaghan lives and works in Brooklyn.