Conor McGrady is an artist from N. Ireland whose work examines the relationship between ideology and the politics of spatial control. He received a BA Hons from the University of Northumbria, Newcastle, UK, and an MFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. He has exhibited internationally, with one-person exhibitions in New York, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago and Zagreb. Group exhibitions include the 2002 Whitney Biennial in New York and the Biennale of Contemporary Art, D-0 Ark Underground, Sarajevo-Konjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Editor of Curated Spaces in the journal Radical History Review, his writing has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Ruminations on Violence (Waveland Press, 2007) State of Emergence (Plottner Verlag, 2011) and State in Time (Drustvo NSK Informativni Center, Ljubljana 2012). He lives and works in New York and The Burren, Ireland, where he is currently Dean of Academic Affairs at Burren College of Art.
Primarily consisting of painting and drawing, my recent work focuses on the role of authority in contemporary society. In particular I am interested in how power is manifested and represented in architecture, urban space and in individual and collective actions. The work arises from situations of civil unrest and social instability, often drawing on my experience growing up in Northern Ireland.
The large-scale figurative works reference the history of portrait painting and narrative works conceived for public spaces, and examine the politics of sociological and spatial control. The iconic stature of the figures that populate these works is undercut by a sense of disquiet or unease. In these works quasi-military groups perform social rituals as a unit, their sense of cohesion a bulwark against an unseen enemy, or collective triumph over unseen victims. Smaller works such as ’Barricade’ explore public space as contested space, with ideas of social order and harmony dismantled and the built environment repurposed to form temporary zones of exclusion from state power. ’Retreat’ consists of a series of digital prints examining architectonic hybrids. Here, the modernist vision of architecture as a utopian embodiment of social progress is merged with the architecture of the military bunker. Buildings designed to be filled with light and space fuse with the language of force, protection and fortification, to become brutalist enclosures and quasi-monumental edifices.
The aim of all the work is to explore the various manifestations of social order and raise questions relating to the control of space, personal and national boundaries.
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