Steven and William Ladd: Mary Queen of the Universe October 26 2014 - January 19 2015
For Mary Queen of the Universe, Steven and William Ladd produced a new body of work based on shared childhood memories of growing up in St. Louis and attending a small Catholic grade school, which gives the exhibition its name. Daily events become the inspiration for a variety of objects that provide a window into the artists’ creative progress. Ranging from small individual boxes to larger-scale sculptures, these works show how the artists transform narratives into sculptural form.
A series of twelve large sculptures forms the central core of Mary Queen of the Universe. Each consists of twenty-four boxes that are arrayed on the wall in a grid, revealing an imaginary world crafted from rolled canvas (“scrolls” as the artists call them), beads, trimmings and other trinkets mostly recycled from an old belt factory. These old materials are made new by the artists’ hands.
The works are arrayed in a sequence of colors ranging from black to muted grey and white, to shocking pink and bright orange. Each color is as important as texture and form. For the Ladds, color rules how the story is carried forward—it locates the character of the work’s “cast” and “scene,” as if each work were a movie or a play. In Pink Cadillac, pink—the color associated with unconditional love and girlish immaturity—refers to “...our mom’s best friend, who was fun and a bit wacky,” William explains. Tweety Bird, a landscape of vivid yellow—the color of optimism and the mind—comes from Steven’s humiliating Halloween experience in a garish Tweety Bird costume.
The glorious tactility of the materials and the abstract nature of the compositions give these works the aspect of expressionistic paintings. At the same time, the artists think of the works in Mary Queen of the Universe as suggesting a certain state of mind in the language of dreams and the unconscious.