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 Adam McEwen  (1965 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/California / England      Known for: monochromatic death themed paintings, mixed media, graphite

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Executed in 2012, Untitled is an archetypal example of British-born, New York based artist Adam McEwen's graphite works. Cast from blocks of machine-chiseled graphite, the recognizable form of an ordinary metal shuttered gate takes on an entirely new identity, becoming both aesthetically and conceptually significant. Rendered entirely in dense, dark grey carbon, every detail of this specifically designed object has been faithfully recreated, while the very purpose of its existence, its working function, has been immobilized. Replicated in its original size and installed in such a way that it is experienced in as life-like way as possible, McEwen's radical treatment of an everyday object, habitual to most, commonly ignored, and highly atypical as the subject for an artwork, forces us to notice it.

By engineering encounters with such objects in a fresh environment, McEwen's graphite works dramatically confront viewers with scenarios that dominate daily reality, but which over-familiarity has numbed us to. Transplanted from the innocuous, anonymous urban landscape of the street into the sacrosanct interior space of a home or gallery, Untitled presents a striking juxtaposition of quotidian concerns placed within the realm of fiction, beauty and fantasy. Densely monochromatic from afar but with reflective elements that glisten as they are approached, the material of Untitled is instantly recognizable as graphite - a substance with obvious artistic associations.

Working with graphite since 2007, McEwen enjoys its accessibility, saying: "The thing I like about [graphite] is how familiar it is. In a sense, maybe I would hope, democratic. Because pretty much everyone from the age of 4 onwards knows what an HP pencil looks like. They know that color, they know what it's like to pick it up and draw a line with it. So, maybe, I use newspapers or I use signs or I use everyday objects - which are all available in that sense,"

The implicit irony and gentle, dead-pan humor of using such a traditional medium in this radical way in these works is not lost on McEwen. Not only does he make something that is ordinarily only a tool of the artist into the actual artwork, but has pointed out that, theoretically, like a pencil mark, it can be gradually erased. A further dimension is added to these works by the fact that although the graphite lends the sculptures an abstract simplicity redolent of Minimalist compositions, when touched they are not as they seem.

McEwen has noted: "The back story to minimalism is not one of a pure and holy aura. There is a more human and dirty and flawed back story and I thought the graphite could get to that," (A. McEwen, quoted in P. Knowles 'On Grace of Graphite' in Soma Magazine, Vol 23.3, Spring 2009).

The urban fabric of New York inspires much of McEwen's work, which is frequently a response to an expatriate's frisson of finding what is seen as normal to most, new and exhilarating. "I spend a lot of time walking around the streets in New York and I get a kick from the combination of grime and beautiful architecture of the city. It's brutal but positive at the same time," McEwen has said. "It took a place like New York to find a joy in that. Trying to deal with the information overload allows me to find things to work with," (A. McEwen, ibid.).

Biography from Gagosian Gallery:
Adam McEwen was born in Great Britain in 1965. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford and California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. He lives and works in New York City.

Adam McEwen's work resides somewhere between the celebratory and funereal. After writing obituaries for the Daily Telegraph in London, he began producing obituaries of living subjects such as Bill Clinton and Jeff Koons, thus highlighting the blurred line between history and fiction. He is known for paintings employing wads of chewing gum on canvas that reference the bombing of German cities in the Second World War, and for machined graphite sculptures of such banal objects as a water cooler or an air conditioner. His repurposing of the over-familiar creates momentary ruptures, which in the words of one writer "jolt us temporarily out of our indifference, owing to over-exposure, toward the signs that dominate our daily lives."??

McEwen's work has been included in numerous group shows including "Haunted," Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010); "Beg, Borrow and Steal," Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2009); "The Reach of Realism," MoCA Miami (2009); "Into Me/Out of Me," PS1 / MOMA, New York; and the 2006 Whitney Biennial.

McEwen has curated various projects and exhibitions including "Power, Corruption and Lies", (with Neville Wakefield; Roth Horowitz, New York, 2004); "Interstate" (Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York, 2005) and "Beneath the Underdog" (with Nate Lowman; Gagosian Gallery, 2007). In 2010 he curated "Fresh Hell" at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, as the third installment of their Carte Blanche series.

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