Torture Sounds Incredible
Joel Ross has shown at moniquemeloche since 2001, when our first gallery space was inaugurated with his ambitious installation, I Borrowed My Mother’s Bedroom. Subsequent exhibitions have dealt with narrative representations of the dynamics of public and private spaces in a variety of media. Two intertwined and consistent themes run through the artist’s practice over his 20-year career: his fascination with the role of the roadside in the mythos of American culture, and the slipperiness of language. For his fifth solo exhibition, Ross returns with a series centered on several minimalist text paintings. But I Made These for You: True Stories and Other Objects engages the American landscape and its citizens, vernacular architecture, and familiar tropes of signage, especially the Southern tradition of handmade religious signage and a culture built on roadside messengers. Here, the artist selects characters’ stories to tell that define him. Ross’ voices are often confrontational, however softened by this muted palette, making the text difficult to decipher from a distance. We are made to draw connections to blown-out signs that have narrowly weathered the sun and the rain. This choice underlines his interest in how context and form shape the way a story is understood and re-interpreted over time, and how storytelling shapes one’s beliefs. The contemplative spirit of this body of work, Ross’ first solo exhibition at the gallery since surviving Lymphoma, is evident in the barely visible letterforms. These are physical manifestations of true, poetic, often unflattering, sometimes heartbreaking, accounts of pieces of lives lived. In the artist’s own words, “We survive the day, and then we sit around telling stories about it. It is how we make sense of the world. It is how we arrive at the truth.