William McKearn at Pierogi

13 October—18 November, 2018
Opening Reception: Sunday, 14 October. 6-8pm
William McKearn - Sea of Milk (Detail)

Press Release

Pierogi is proud to present the first one-person exhibition of William McKearn’s sculptures. McKearn develops narrative subjects using models, dioramas, and miniatures. Some of his narratives are inspired by mythology and others by personal experience. Most of the pieces employ a cast of figures in tableaux set against fragments of landscape or architecture. Scale is inconsistent, with models upon models and details scaled up and jammed in with smaller figures. Most of the works have multiple viewpoints or site lines, or they have multiple tableaux for a beginning and an end to a tale. The figures are typically straining or contorted in panic, inspired by a lifetime in construction and attendant mishaps, or by the follies of youth.

McKearn’s “Sea of Milk” and “Churner” sculptures are two parts of an ongoing larger work that is inspired by the Hindu origin myth from the laborer’s viewpoint. On a visit to Angkor Wat, McKearn was impressed by the sprawling plan of the place and the labor that went into its construction. These two works reflect the construction phase and the abandonment of the effort. Both pieces have models within models that represent the job description of the participants. This reflects McKearn’s experience working as a laborer on large construction projects. While everyone would like to say that they have made something grand, the only way to achieve it is by donkey labor.

Labor, close calls, and accidents are inspirations for McKearn. Some of his works have specific references, such as “Pelto’s Roof” which depicts the artist, Michael Ballou, and “The Wreck of the Beaver” as told by the artist’s brother, Patrick. Other works, such as “Perfidia,” were inspired by lingering obsessions. Most of McKearn’s references could be classified as yarns, or stories embellished over time. He has been writing these narratives in letter form, principally to send to a young boy in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This has required, on his part, strenuous remediation of the text along with illustrations in the attempt to bridge the cultural divide.

William McKearn is a Chicago based artist who travels frequently to Vietnam with his wife Lan. He has illustrated for Esquire, and The New York Times, and more recently as a contributor to Does It Fold?, edited and published by David Scher and exhibited at The Drawing Center, NYC.