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Westport Arts Center
51 Riverside Ave.
Westport, CT 06880
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Exhibition Opening - Ward Shelley And Douglas Paulson

Westport Arts Center
12/1/17 - 3/2/18



The Westport Arts Center presents Ward Shelley’s What Keeps Mankind Alive on view from December 1, 2017 – March 2, 2018.  


What Keeps Mankind Alive features a selected group of diagrammatic paintings that tease out narratives from history and culture.  The paintings will be presented within the context of The Last Library, an ongoing collaboration between Shelley and artist Douglas Paulson. The Last Library features a room-sized installation of bookcases and 3,000 books that according to Shelley, “should have been written, but haven’t.”


The works are presented courtesy of the artists and Pierogi Gallery, NYC.


The opening reception for the exhibition will be held on Friday, December 1 from 6 – 8 p.m. and is free and open to the public.


Shelley makes paintings with information the way that historians make stories from facts.  Previously on view at Pierogi Gallery, NYC, the exhibition begins with the understanding that people depend on a collection of narratives to explain the world around them. 


Shelley explains, “These narratives are stories that weave together a series of facts, or assertions, so they make sense.  Narratives create what is true for the believer, which are more germane to the believer’s life than facts.”


Shelley considers his diagrammatic timelines as representations of these narratives.  He continues, “Facts are like dots on a graph.  The narrative is the curve that connects them, that gives isolated data points meaning, and gives meaning shape . . . As actors in the world, we need a worldview, and a worldview requires construction.  Narratives are what we construct – they are the basic building blocks for organizing our outlook and interpreting the world.”


Similarly, The Last Library collects parts to make a whole.  In this case, the parts are in the form of book titles, which are highly condensed signifiers of the narratives contained (or at least expected to be) within the book.  But there are no actual books, only titles, including The Better Side of Valerie, and You and your Confirmation Bias, and Fake Fakes.

Shelley’s performance, installation, and timeline works have been shown widely in Europe and the US.  He is the recipient of numerous prizes and residency fellowships including the Rome Prize and a Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, among others. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (NY, NY), Whitney Museum of American Art (NY, NY), Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (Vienna, Austria), and the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, NY).

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