Emerging in the 1990s as artist, musician, DJ and owner of Santo’s nightclub in New York City, Spencer Sweeney is the ‘Downtown Renaissance’ artist of new era New York. His versatile practice shifts across genres and styles within visual art, music and performance. A varied methodology and reciprocity of influences create a hardcore ethic to his work derived from both his persona and the potential of public exposure. Challenging traditional norms of a gallery space while attempting to transcend its very system, his multifaceted approach has created a vital energy for his work.
Key to his exhibitions are unusual and informal displays. Shown on anything from temporary stands such as easels, hanging and leaning on walls, and scattered around
spaces, his paintings defy definitions, often changing styles and built on vastly different references. They are “A dashed-off slacker anthem to portraiture, embedded in a tradition of painting Sweeney manages to revive, [his] works depict mark-like faces loaded with melancholy and self-irony”.
Collaborations with other artist-musicians such as Kembra Pfahler and Urs Fischer, relationships he often debuted at his nightclub Santo’s, before testing them in the white cube spaces of the galleries, bring the energy of a ‘Horse Meat Disco’ party into his practice. At HdM Gallery in Beijing in 2019 Sweeney was invited to curate a show entitled “New York by Night”, which included respected artists such as Urs Fischer, Cy Gavin and Marcus Jahmal to visually express the joys and intrigues of night life - the bodies at play and musical performative energy - through their visual practices. As with club nights, familiarity is constantly overturned by innovation. “Sweeney has reassessed his role as a cultural producer in a world where everything changes [ ... ] In a moment of cold-eyed clarity, a time of looking forward and inward, a time to dig deeper into the crates and into the mud of subjectivity. In order to lay hold of it there where it is made to happen and destroy it one more time, in order to re-appropriate its constant destruction and begin again from there’, wrote John Kelsey.
Spencer Sweeney, born in 1973 in Philadelphia, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and lives and works in New York City. He has exhibited at MoMA PS1 New York, the Whitney Biennial New York, High Museum of Art Atlanta and is represented by the Gagosian Gallery, Gavin Brown's Enterprise New York, the Modern Institute Glasgow and Contemporary Fine Arts Berlin.