The world is ridiculous, compromised and impossible. Which is not to say a bad subject, ready to be extruded through camp pathos, folk poetry and gestalt comedy. That extrusion, that’s Keegan Monaghan’s world. It’s a sofa’s exegesis in fugitive color. It’s Bonnard painting a toaster. It’s the surprising hilarity of a banal detail once it’s been articulated in paint. It’s small subjects with big feelings.
In this world the pictures are pickled, cured, raked and hewn until the lowly scumble accrues into shimmering asphalt. They yield their scenes through curtains of transparent rock. To codify the geological framework, these are time-over-pressure surfaces, the calcification of luminous strata via the duration of repeated passes. Repeated passes of articulation met with the pressure of doubt. Doubt firing re-articulation, spurring on the repainting of the picture again and again with the heartfelt desire to get it right, like a person rehearsing an identity in the mirror. It’s a surface that embodies a dramatic metaphor of doubt, but a doubt made so poignant by time and effort that it becomes ecstatic doubt.
Ecstatic doubt being a way of invoking something like empathy. It’s not for nothing that the view between disparate states is the atomic experience of this particular body of work. Whether it’s looking out of a brain, through a glass plate or into a movie screen, there’s the persistent reminder that if personhood holds together at all, it does so in the moments you realize not what you are, but what you are not, that identity is predicated on yearning and that yearning is a variant of seeing. A time-pressure metaphor if ever there was one.
Keegan Monaghan’s world enacts that biggest-hearted form of irony, which was never about the shirking of commitment, but rather always about mutually conflicting commitments: this thing I want most in life, I also know to be ridiculous, compromised and impossible. It’s the paradox of a commitment to desire as well as to doubt, an abundance of commitment and the fluorescent anguish of that abundance. In other words, these paintings will break your heart while making you smile.
(Text by James English Leary.)
Keegan Monaghan (b. 1986, Chicago, IL) received his BFA from the Cooper Union in 2008. His paintings and sculptures were the subject of a solo presentation entitled Total Recall at OLD ROOM, New York, NY in 2015. His works have been featured in group shows at On Stellar Rays, New York, NY (2016); Gallery Four, Baltimore, MD (2016); White Columns, New York, NY (2015); OLD ROOM, New York, NY (2015 and 2013); Greenwich House Pottery, New York, NY (2014); Jan Kaps Gallery, Cologne, Germany (2014); Ray Smith Studio, New York, NY (2014); Parade Ground, New York, NY (2014); Karma, Amagansett, NY (2013); The Bruce High Quality Foundation University, New York, NY (2012); La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, New York, NY (2009); Artists Space, New York, NY (2008); and Koenig & Clinton, Andes, NY (2008). Monaghan lives and works in New York, NY.