My American Dream is a large installation and body of work by artist Keith Mayerson created over the last decade. Various incarnations of this project, or “chapters”, first appeared in exhibitions in New York, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Houston, and Brussels, most recently culminating in his 42-painting installation, curated by Stuart Comer into the 2014 Whitney Biennial. My American Dream is a meta-narrative, consisting of more recent personal images from photographs—of his husband and himself, his family, and world—and also from a long career of painting from appropriated imagery and abstraction. This particular body of work began in 2005, building on the hope that one day the cosmology would be exhibited in a site-specific composition. Marlborough is proud finally to exhibit the large cosmology of the work (accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog) to inspire and promote a progressive, positive view of America’s past in the hope to help make a better future.
Mayerson’s narrative begins with paintings installed in a contemporary horizontal fashion, leading to the large gallery hung salon-style. The artist’s mural-like display of popular culture and American history, embedded in a narrative of the rise of civil rights, gay rights, and the agency of minorities and women, is inspired by not only by the sublime panels and frescoes of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and the iconic politics and narrative of Picasso’s Guernica, but also the populism and compositional devices of Thomas Hart Benton, Diego Rivera, and James Rosenquist. From a history of creating and teaching comics, and being inspired by the sequential imagery of Goya, Hogarth, Jacob Lawrence and more, Mayerson establishes- -with deliberately juxtaposed images-- a non-linear narrative within these structures, using this age-old manner of displaying paintings to create an enveloping panel-to-panel, comic- like cosmology. Also influenced by avant-garde theater of Richard Foreman, the Wooster Group and Georg Buchner, the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and the Comte de Lautréamont, and the music of Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, John & Yoko, and rock operas, the assembled works are a rollicking display of familiar (and not so familiar) characters and scenes, and symphony soundtrack of a dream-like journey rediscovering America.
With formal principles inspired by Manet, Monet, and many of the old masters and modernists who made paintings which were both political and personal as well as painterly, warm and transcendent, the artist paints from his heart romantic images that hold deep significance not only to him, but extend to pertinent issues that are shaping our world right now and cultural history. In the spirit of The Eight, the group of American painters that wanted to bring art closer to the world of everyday life, and the American populism of Benton, it is the hope that the populism of My American Dream can reach the people beyond the artworld of New York, inspiring them to continue the struggle to make our country a better place for freedom, and—to quote Superman (if it’s not too patriarchal or nationalistic!) for “truth, justice, and the American Way.”