Jeff Bailey Gallery is pleased to present ARENA, an exhibition of new paintings and sculpture by Mark Shetabi.
ARENA is based on Shetabi’s examination of live performance, crowds and public space. How does a performer inspire a crowd? Where does this energy come from? Where does it go?
Shetabi came across footage on YouTube of Freddy Mercury, Queen’s flamboyant and charismatic vocalist, and was intrigued by its connection to ideas being explored in the studio. At a 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium, Mercury whips an adoring crowd into a frenzied and ecstatic state. The connection between the performer and audience is palpable. In a recent BBC poll, this performance was voted the greatest live performance ever.
In The Public Sphere, the viewer looks through a peephole lens installed in the gallery wall, and adopts the view that Freddy Mercury saw from the stage of Wembley Stadium in 1985. A vast, undulating crowd waits for the show to begin. The viewer, like Mercury, has become the focal point of the spectacle. Several small and intimate paintings depict Mercury at this performance, both before the crowd and in isolation.
Paintings of amplifiers and a large-scale painting of a drum set, shown up close, face off against a large image of soundproof foam. Ideas of amplification versus absorption come into play.
Forms associated with a sonic blast are painted in a quiet palette of grays. The objects are seemingly in a state of dormancy, waiting to be used. In Fog Machine, a stage and drum set are illuminated in spotlights, either awaiting the performers, or, empty after they have left.
Mark Shetabi is a Philadelphia-based artist who received his MFA in painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He is a recipient of a 2002 Pew Fellowship in the Arts. This is Shetabi’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, and he has had previous solo exhibitions at Locks Gallery and Project Room, Philadelphia, and Ratio 3, San Francisco. His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including White Columns, New York, and the Hecksher Museum, Huntington. Shetabi currently has work on view in the group exhibition Empire and Its Discontents at Tufts University, Aidekman Arts Center, Boston.