The Underground Museum
January 15-February 18, 2015
The Underground Museum is pleased to present Grant Shumate’s first solo exhibition, a
series of paintings and collaborative performances concerning self-examination and ritual
in cultural and artistic practice. Shumate structures this appropriately personal thought
process through the figure of the Ouroboros, the perplexing symbol of eternity
represented as a serpent that eats itself. Motifs of transition and movement connect this
broad body of work: repurposed imagery moves through stages of legibility at the artist’s
hand while visual, aural and olfactory actors temporarily transform the space of the
gallery into a fever dream of life’s shifting seasons. An ode to fleeting youth as much as a
welcome invitation to the coming unknown.
Conceived as a series of paintings, Shumate’s working process oscillates between new
directions in photography and digital collage and classical painting. Culling through
folders of undifferentiated source files, the artist works in a repetitive process of
combination, accumulation, removal and destruction, ultimately denying the materiality of
the paint itself by photographing and ink jet printing the final work on canvas. Bleached,
sanded and stretched to its limits: “The poor image is a copy in motion [...] it is a ghost of
an image, a preview.”1 Add to this, layers of glass and heavy sculptural frames and the
paintings become objects in which the viewer sees himself.
Over the course of the exhibition the works will develop new meaning as a type of “set
dressing” for a series of three multimedia performances. Taking their organization from
Native American sacred hoops, the circle is divided into the stages of life. Shumate is less
concerned with spectatorship than the creation of social environments/communities, what
Nicholas Bourriaud calls “models of action within the existing real.” Art directed to great
effect, these events bring together, in the post-studio era, the many spheres in which fine
art, its makers and its consumers, move. Shumate’s work is made on laptops and through
phone calls with print studios, stored on hard drives and shared across disciplinary and
social communities. In these three performances, however, the art is a community event
living between performance, variety show and psychedelic shamanism, with the aim, in
Joseph Beuys’ words, to create a work of art that is itself a society. “Everything is in a
state of change.” Charged by the sustenance of their surroundings, the paintings, like
Ouroboros, live on.
Grant Shumate was born in Orange County, went to college in Australia, and has lived in
Los Angeles since 2007. While pursuing his art, he was a creative collaborator at the
Saint Laurent Paris design studio in Los Angeles. Since 2009, he has worked under his
own eponymous studio. His work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art
(Los Angeles, 2012) and this exhibition returns to the Underground Museum, host of his
2014 performance, Extra Ordinary, Extraordinary.
1 Hito Steyerl, “In Defense of the Poor Image,” The Wretched of the Screen (Berlin:
Sternberg Press, 2012).
January 15, 2015
The sun rises in the east. Opening night of the exhibition, an atmospheric shift will occur,
aided by a number of collaborators. The evening’s womb-like sanguinity recreates
feelings of birth, childhood and the beginnings of things: this optimistic performance
features Paz Lenchantin, Nana Ghana and Alrik Yuill.
January 28, 2015
The labor of self-transformation defines this second, intermediary performance. Moving
from south into west, from spring into the summer of life, the entirety of the environment
and its actors will transition before the audience. From the existential angst and emotional
aggression of youth and its discontents to the emergent and often surprising pleasures of
maturity. Featuring performances by The Garden, Assembly Dance and DJ Lovefingers.
February 15, 2015
Aging, achievement and reflection. Once trust between audience and the performer is
established, the process of healing and closing the circle can begin. This final
environment, a blurred gesture between performance and gathering to mark the closing
of the exhibition, allows space to experience what the Ouroboros has become and the
beginning of a new cycle.