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Christopher ChiappaStasis Horror

  • Exhibition

  • June 15, 2014 - June 29, 2015
  • Hunter Hallway

More than 80 of Christopher Chiappa’s riotous paintings—executed on stools were installed in MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center hallway. Arranged on shelves, designed and built by Chiappa, these playful hybrids of fashion and function read as a collection of individual artworks, as well as one large painterly relief. Exuberant, humorous, and serious all at once, the works are the result of a significant turning point in the artist’s practice when he all but gave up making art over 10 years ago. They grew out of a practical problem: faced with an empty studio—and a need for a table and chairs—the artist made objects that would function as both.

Soon the stools became spherical canvases, a repository for Chiappa’s painterly experiments. The artist’s earlier conceptual work gave way to unself-conscious paintings. “I tricked myself into making paintings,” he explained, “by not letting my ego know that I was, in fact, painting and making artwork.”

Derived from the iconic Weber grill, the stools are strange, alien-like, yet oddly familiar. Chiappa often incorporates objects from his everyday life or suburban childhood into his work. Combined with a bright palette and graphic blocks of color, these eccentric paintings on Styrofoam simultaneously investigate modern genres and cartoon images. The works have a sense of good-humored anarchy that might be left over from the artist’s skateboarding days. Each work is handmade and worked over for extended periods of time, with the artist building and then breaking down and reapplying layers of paint and resin. Originally working in monochrome, he began dipping the stools into large vats of oil-based enamel, creating overlapping skeins of color. Subsequently, he adds line and representational imagery. For the exhibition at MASS MoCA, Chiappa created versions carved from walnut and pine. In conjunction with the exhibition, a series of stools are available for use by patrons in the museum lobby.

Chiappa was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania, in 1970. He received a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College in 1993, after spending one semester at the Rhode Island School of Design. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1998. His work has been shown at MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam, Bat Yam, Israel; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Western Bridge, Seattle; Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara; Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York; Modern Art, London; James Cohan Gallery, New York; Exit Art, New York; and François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles. He is represented by Kate Werble Gallery, New York. The artist currently lives and works in Long Island City, New York.

Exhibition view of Stasis Horror
Resin, oil-based enamel, and tint on Styrofoam; wood and melamine shelving
Each work is approximately 19 inches tall x 18 inches diameter; 360 x 120 inches overall
Courtesy of the artist