Billy Sullivan

12 Apr - 25 May 2014

Exhibition view
© Billy Sullivan
Jane, Max and Emerson, 2010
Oil on canvas
Dimensions 139,7 x 182,8 cm ( 55 x 72 inch )
Time after Time
12 April - 25 May 2014

Since the early 1970ies Billy Sullivan has accompanied New York‘s underground, artist and fashion scene with his camera and appropriates these images for his oil paintings, pastel drawings or his elaborate multi-channel slide installations. Sullivan pictures the environment of his friends, family, lovers and muses and the (half-) worlds in which they circulate: their clubs, their studios, churned up hotel rooms or elegant beach houses. In Sullivan‘s universe of images - that ignores any kind of time chronology - underground, cultural elite and high society are always close to each other, just like surfaces and abysms or youthful lust and momentariness.

A particular intimacy and exuberant sensuality is inherent in all of Billy Sullivan‘s imagery, that is created on one hand through the closeness to his subjects but also by the apparent fugitiveness of the pictured moments on the other. At close inspection though and especially in his painting, the light, intensive flow results exactly in the opposite of temporariness and absence. Photographic moments from 40 years ago in Sullivan‘s today‘s painting seem as if it had been only yesterday and through that refuses any transience. They are as existential as ever: in their precise compositorial observation of at times seemingly coincidental, other times captivating beauty, in desire and love in all diversity: between family members, lovers, muses and painter, but also hasty encounters of a night and eternal spiritual kinship with fellow artist and intellectuals.

The subjects of some of his legendary images have become icons themselves - artists such as Nan Goldin, Keith Sonnier and not the least Andy Warhol, or curators and critics like Crissie Isles, Kynaston McShine and Clarissa Dalrymple. Other photos show enigmatic figures of night life, musicians and characters of underground films: famous ones like Cookie Mueller or Grace Jones but also many unknown and forgotten drag queens, door men and models. Other photos portray scenes of family life, quiet morning still lifes, erotic moments of the „shortly before“ and „shortly after“.

Sullivan succeeds in all of this without any shocking, voyeurism, irony or exaggerated melancholy. The reason might be found in a unique sort of sincerity in which he approaches his subjects and which they mirror: an aura of weightlessness that gently encloses and protects them, formed by nonconstraining curiosity and affection. Billy Sullivan places all these manifold moments next to each other without judgement and free of valuation, which thus become expressions of inseparable bonds, sprung from the midst of intensively lived lives.

Tags: Nan Goldin, Keith Sonnier, Billy Sullivan, Andy Warhol