John Mellencamp: Life, Death, Love and Freedom
Apr 26 – Jun 2, 2018
We are pleased to announce contemporary artist John Mellencamp’s new exhibition, Life, Death, Love and Freedom, opening at ACA Galleries on April 26, 2018 in New York. This is Mellencamp’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and will showcase two bodies of work: Mellencamp’s sculptural assemblages and series of portraits.
Heavily influenced by the German Expressionists, such as Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, whose anguish over human brutality and corruption speaks to his deep feelings about social justice, Mellencamp’s imagery takes its inspiration from the same sources as his music: the oppressive authority and social struggles of the working man and woman. But though that foundation is German, the evolved result is decidedly American, with the brash and snappy visual rhythms of our streets, lives, politics and passions. This can be seen in Black on Black, 2017, which repurposes text from iconic American literature and film, including The Fugitive Kind, directed by Sidney Lumet, Cool Hand Luke, directed by Stuart Rosenberg, and Tortilla Flat, written by John Steinbeck.
An exhibition highlight is A Bed of Nails, 2017, a dimly-rendered portrait of American actor James Dean, the canvas embedded with a grid of nails with a line of wire surrounding the nails to frame the subject’s face. Widely credited with influencing the development of rock and roll music, Dean – like Mellencamp – was born in Indiana and remains an iconic counter-cultural figure.
“Mellencamp paints handsomely grotesque portraits in oil that are as solemn and stirring as his hit songs are catchy and inspirational -- depicting existential scenes and human beings ridden with the angst of the everyday” notes critic Doug McClemont.
Another highlight is Jack of Hearts, a large-scale assemblage depicting the Marlboro Man, common in tobacco advertising campaigns the latter half of the Twentieth Century. Often rendered as a rugged cowboy in nature with a lit cigarette, the figure quickly became an iconic representation of masculinity and the American heartland, as well as an important trope within art history. A thick shadow at the top of the painting suggests the brim of the figure’s cowboy hat, on which sits four packs of American Spirit cases – and the LIFE Magazine logo, while in the bottom corner of the painting sits a jack of hearts from a deck of playing cards.
John Mellencamp has exhibited his work in solo exhibitions at The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio; the Tennessee State Museum, Nashville; The Museum of Art – Deland, Florida; and the Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, Georgia.Download Press Release (PDF)