Conor McGrady

Chelsea Now by Jeffrey Cyphers Wright

A Northern Ireland native, Conor McGrady uses black and white to suggest personal memories as well as highlight issues of authority and control. Five years after participating in the Whitney Biennial, he is at M.Y. Art Prospects with new vignettes. Vividly compressed, they address our relationship with society.
It isn’t political theater though. The iconography of the nation state, its uniforms, badges and helmets are pitted against the borders of the self in this subtly rendered dance of convincing metaphors.
In “Domain” several black-jacketed officers follow a well-dressed gent. They float across a white field. Their isolation and the straightforward Alex Katz-like abbreviation, adds to the uneasy sense of immediacy. The leather is broken into minimal planes and gleams, highlighting McGrady’s skill as a painter while drawing attention to this trapping of control.
In a pair of sacrifice paintings, McGrady quotes Biblical beheadings painted by Velazquez and Caravaggio. A naked man is bound and held down by others in “Sacrifice.” In “Ritual,” the victim is a bull, a symbol of insurgency-of a wild and dangerous animal that must be put down. In this painting, McGrady strips off the boss’s uniform. This inversion of roles exposes the power source to be vulnerable-just another human being doing his job. In doing so, the artist re-casts the henchmen as casual agents, rather than causal.
Putting a woman in a uniform also inverts expectations. Using his own wife as a model for a nursing sentinel, McGrady seduces our rebellious instincts. The state nurtures as well as controls-it allows as well as disallows. The rigidity of the figure and her steadfast gaze slyly recall Social Realism. She stands her ground (in sexy heels) and is held in place by a shadowy aura around her.
The terrain McGrady is tracking is all about our place. It’s a place we need to know more about and these paintings are signposts.

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