Born 1973, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; lives in New York, New York

Spencer Sweeney assumes the roles of artist, club owner, and musician to build a practice that falls intentionally between the cracks of any qualifiable genre. His explosively colorful collaged paintings and cartoonish drawings constitute one part of a larger body of work based on his persona. This places him within a tradition of artists, such as Martin Kippenberger, who, in cultivating outrageous personalities and shifting rapidly between artistic styles, sought an expanded room to maneuver not otherwise afforded by the gallery system.

For a recent solo exhibition, Sweeney suspended an NYPD police car (which he bought at auction) upside down from the ceiling of the gallery, surrounded by a series of psychedelic paintings. In one, The Mother of Us All (2005), vivid motifs compete for space: large sections of the canvas are blacked out; a burst of colorful scrawls originating in the top right-hand corner mutates into intestines, which crawl over the painting and drip to its bottom; and a black spiderweb billows at the painting’s opposite corner. Many of the paintings resemble New York City’s heavily graffitied surfaces, reinforcing the sense of anarchy evoked by the upturned police car (Turning a cab back into a police car into a disco, 2005). In place of an identification number, the vehicle bears the chemical equation for LSD; a disco ball and rotating colored lights are attached to its roof, turning the car into a chandelier—in fact, it will soon be installed in Santa’s Party House, Sweeney’s nightclub in Manhattan.

In an ongoing series of daily drawings that spans a suitably diverse array of images, Sweeney evinces a boundless disregard for consistency of style and form: one shows a woman with her legs spread, wearing only sweatbands and tennis shoes; the self-explanatory Note to Mother (2004) is a doodle-like collage; and numerous homoerotic diagrams portray nude male figures replete with angel wings, red high heels, and flowing hair in unabashedly absurd sexual positions. Their occasional preposterousness and their diaristic nature offer a live feed of the artist’s thoughts and reinforce the contradictions that sustain Sweeney’s ever-shifting practice. ESM


...read more about this artist in the Biennial Catalogue

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Fun, 2005. Oil on canvas, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm). Collection of Shane Akeroyd; courtesy Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York