The show consists of three modified casket lids, a large-scale painting on Formica, and a series of drawings and collages all made within the past year and a half. This is Starling’s first solo exhibition with the gallery.
With this new body of work Starling continues his investigation of funerary presentation and the related themes of time, comfort, anxiety, and the mourning process as ritual for closure. The artist grew up above his family’s funeral home in Harlem, Georgia, and involves this biography and maker’s sensibility into these meditations on death and renewal.
Four large freestanding walls intersect the gallery and describe a vault-like atmosphere. Three casket lids are mounted on these, reassigned from their original, horizontal function of encasing the deceased, to now face the viewer at eye level. Working each through a multitude of mediums and processes, the lids transcend the interchangeability of their standardized manufacture, and assume unique characters.
Framed between these walls is Black Calendar, a large painting of Formica and mixed materials. Similar to the casket lid pieces, the expressive building and eroding of the materials highlight the complex hubris of quantifying life and death as philosophical and conceptual binaries. Small irregular cut-outs of the lamination have been reassembled on the surface to expose the wall behind it. These horizontally punctuated chips seem to suggest the counting and threading of time.
Along with the related drawings, Starling uses process and the behavior of materials to reconcile his artistic subjectivity with the comedy of death. Finish is both the veneer applied to any surface in order to preserve it, but also, the proverbial end of the road.