- January 23, 2010 – December 31, 2011
Sean Foley’s new work Ruse occupied the over-100-foot long wall outside of the Hunter Center for the Performing Arts. Foley found the distorted, disproportionately long and narrow space appealing for a new work; in it, viewers could never quite take in a singular image all at once, and instead are left to put the pieces together in their minds, to turn glimpses into a whole. Ruse began with ideas of camouflage, a topic that has filtered into the artist’s work in the past.
Foley’s practice stems from painting but expands the medium beyond traditional definitions, pushing it off the canvas and onto the wall — beyond figure and beyond abstraction into a kind of battle between wonder and the monstrous. Foley’s imagery explodes from his paintings into the realm of installation, where he depicts the monstrous as shrouded in bright candy colors, hiding its true nature much in the way that carnivalesque imagery and camouflage function to make the viewer see the magic surface rather than the darker reality. Foley’s monsters represent life, which in itself exists as a continuous cultural camouflage from Fox News to images of wartime and depression. In Ruse, Foley provided the viewer with a space to contemplate the mystery that lies beyond the image.
Ruse revealed itself through camouflage, optical illusions, and shadows. The installation was made up of traditionally mounted paintings, wall drawing, and various sized laser-cut object/characters that pivoted off the wall. When first approaching the wall, it became clear that its form was not stable, but had in fact it has been altered into an undulating wave to further heighten the wall’s already fragmented viewing. The view of this space was further compounded by an adjacent wall of small paned windows which added to the fragmented aspect of Foley’s work. This distortion served as a kind of camouflage; what lies just beyond view was a mystery for but a moment, as the viewer could continue to travel down the space to see more.
Foley has said: “I seek to lure the audience with a formal color, shape, scale, which introduce more questions and provoke their imaginations. It is not about ‘knowing’ but about ways of knowing. Questions posed within the ‘event’ or action of the installation or the imagination of the viewer.” In the end, this “knowing” became the ruse, or camouflage, for beneath what is known is just another bend in the wall or monster around the corner.
A graduate from the Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, Foley earned an MFA from The Ohio State University. He has had numerous solo exhibition, including Rubes, Scuttlebutt & Loggerheads at Irvine Contemporary in Washington DC; Phantasmagoria at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockport, and Allston Skirt Gallery, Boston, MA. He has been part of many group exhibitions, including the Biennial Exhibition at the Portland Museum of Art in 2003, he was the first artist to win both the Biennial’s Juror’s Award and the Purchase Prize; he later won the Purchase Prize at the 2009 Biennial; Big Bang: Abstraction in the 21st Century at the Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA.; a two-person show with Michael Oatman at the Mary Ryan Gallrey, NY; and Cryptozoology at the Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME. Foley has held residencies at the Fine Arts Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, CA; the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, RI as an Ohio Arts Council Fellow; the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, NE; and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. His work is in the collections of The Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, MA; Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, ME; Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine; Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME; and the Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA. Formerly the head of the painting department at Maine College of Art, Foley currently teaches at Ohio State University and recently completed a large-scale commission for the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH.
Courtesy of the artist