The Bass Museum of Art is proud to present a solo exhibition by London-based artist Mat Collishaw. An artist whose wide-ranging practice includes sculpture, photography, and new media, Collishaw explores dark and subversive subject matter, often dealing with issues that are morally and politically charged. In his photographic series Last Meal on Death Row, Texas, Collishaw utilizes the style Baroque still life painting to portray the final meals requested by inmates on death row. In a fitting juxtaposition, the emotional and psychological gravity of each last meal portrayal resonates with the tradition of still life painting, a genre rife with overtones of mortality, isolation, and decadence. The fact that Collishaw uses inmates from the state of Texas also adds to the political overtones of his work, as Texas has had the highest number of executions since 1976, more than any other state. Interestingly, the act of fulfilling inmates’ requests for final meals in Texas ended in September 2011 after a state legislator’s outcry against the excessiveness of recent meals. In addition to this series, Collishaw will present two works from his Venal Muse series, which consist of ornate floral sculptures in sturdy vitrines. These works allude to Charles Baudelaire’s 1857 controversial volume of poetry Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), which dealt with such themes as eroticism, death, and lost innocence. Collishaw’s floral sculptures reveal human scars and lesions, and like Baudelaire’s verses, the works synthesize beauty and decay, elegance and degradation. Similarly, Collishaw’s Gomoria consists of a traditional gothic altarpiece inlaid with video screens that show floral imagery that blurs the line between the beautiful and the grotesque.
Born in Nottingham, England, Mat Collishaw’s work has been included in exhibitions such as the 12th Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul, Turkey, 2011 curated by Adriano Pedrosa and Jens Hoffmann; in Magic Lantern, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2010-11; Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, 2011; Phantoms Shadows and Phenomena, Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio State University, Athens, Ohio, 2011; La Forêt de mon rêve, Galerie d’Art du Conseil Général de Bouches-du-Rhône, Aix-en-Provence, France, 2011; and Retrospectre, a special installation at the British Film Institute, Southbank, London, 2010.