Opening reception Dec. 8, 6 - 8 p.m.
With tongue planted firmly in cheek, Matthew Sleeth chaperones us through an absurd and ambitious “roadmap to happiness” in his Lilliputian freeway installation The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization (And Other Obvious Metaphors). The Artist questions the legitimacy of our preconceived ideals of perfect lives unfolding on cue, be they based on Eastern philosophies of the “journey” or Western philosophies of the “destination.” Cleverly handling the conceptual underpinnings of the installation, Sleeth co-opts the clichéd use of the road metaphor in the very title of the exhibition. He approaches the work with a hearty dose of realism, punctuating the familiar, concrete freeway with ironic billboards, street signs, and gantries pontificating “Sincerity Is The New Irony” and proclaiming “Happiness Equals Expectation Over Achievement.”
Eighty feet in length and rising as high as twelve feet in the air, Sleeth’s expressway is composed of 33 separate units, each a unique work of art, complete with electronic road signs, diminutive video screens, and LED billboards. This elevated thoroughfare snakes through the gallery, visually referencing ancient Roman aqueducts, Route 66, and Chelsea’s own elevated High Line. Sleeth’s miniature monument to contemporary society’s “wrong turn” questions where we went astray; we hope to answer our complex questions with absurd metaphors, platitudes, and narratives. The time is now; History will judge us: The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization. This is the Artist’s second solo show at Claire Oliver Gallery.