Darren Waterston: Opulence and ruin

Contributed by Hannah Kennedy, Two Coats Intern / Darren Waterston’s paintings and an installation called Filthy Lucre are on view at Mass MOCA through January 2015. Ranging from small canvases to engrossing alien landscapes, Waterston’s paintings evoke otherworldly abstractions: dark and mysterious yet inviting. Filthy Lucre, a re-interpreted
interior installation, represents a major departure from Waterston’s previous work but still evokes a similar aesthetic and
experiential scene.

[Images: Darren Waterston, Filthy Lucre, 2013-2014, mixed media, 20 x 30 x 12 feet, courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery.]

Filthy Lucre is Waterston’s room-sized interpretation of the relationship between artist, James McNeil Whistler, and patron, Fredrick Leyland. Viewers find themselves in a sumptuous
interior painted in lush greens and golds. Reminiscent of the gilded age, with its regal display of peacocks and collection of hand-painted pottery, the interior evokes an orientalist
interest in collecting exotic works of art, a hobby common in the late
19th century. Shattered pottery and collapsing shelves line every inch
of the room. A soundscape composed by BETTY completes the quality of ruin in Waterston’s eerie scene.

Gold paint dripping from every inch of the room is mirrored by lamps hanging from the ceiling. The oozing gold falls heavily from a scene of peacocks painted above the mantel. The paint collects in stalactite formations from the mantelpiece to eventually form a pool that seeps across the floor. This section of the room encapsulates Waterston’s critique of the gilded age–a time of regal consumption, learned collecting, and, eventually, precipitous decline. And his quietly jarring depiction of opulence brought to ruin is a reminder that even the rich and powerful are vulnerable to the ravages of time and the forces of history.

Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty,” curated by Susan Cross. Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA, Through January 2015.

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