Sue Scott Gallery is pleased to announce Put Me in the Zoo, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Suzanne McClelland.
Throughout her career, McClelland has used words as her medium, transmitting the emotional valence of language through painterly gesture and abstract form. Exclamations, hackneyed expressions, words and sounds uttered in passion or humor—the translation of linguistic into visual forms has been her lifelong project.
In this exhibition, McClelland turns to two sources as inspiration in shaping an optimistic account of the liberating potential of art—and of color, in particular. One is the children’s book Put Me in the Zoo, by Robert Lopshire (1960). The story concerns a spotted animal of indeterminate species who desperately longs to be in the zoo. Performing a series of poses, the creature demonstrates not only his amusing acrobatic skills but also the curious propensity to change the color of his spots, which morph from primaries to secondaries as if prompted from within. Eventually he realizes his skills are best accommodated in the circus.
The other source for McClelland’s recent work has a biographical basis. As a child, she lived in a rural area of the U.S. where the humorist, clown and political satirist Dan Rice (1823-1900)—one of the models for “Uncle Sam” and wildly popular at the time— wintered his circus. Creator of DAN RICE’S GREATEST SHOW in 1855, he had as one of his slogans, “Make circus not war.” Inspired by a vintage photograph of Rice in costume, McClelland took his slogan to heart and executed a series of paintings in which a bright, fresh, modulating palette—not unlike the creature’s spots—seems the embodiment of a spirit of play that is the artist’s alternative to the darker realities of our times.
McClelland’s work is in the collections of many major institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Fisher Landau Center for Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Walker Art Center, the Orlando Museum of Art, the Miami Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery and the Martin Z. Margulies Collection. In 2006, Elizabeth Murray selected McClelland for the AXA Artist Award. That same year, she received the Nancy Graves Grant for Visual Arts. In 2008, Hard Press Editions and One Eye Pug published rock and shift, a book on the artist’s recent work.
McClelland lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. This is her first exhibition with Sue Scott Gallery.