Ward Shelley

Ward Shelley works as an artist in New York and Connecticut. He is interested in constructed worlds and intersecting narratives; how they create, mediate and inform each other. He wants to know how things really work.

Shelley specializes in large projects that freely mix architecture and performance. For more than a decade, he has been collaborating with Alex Schweder, using experimental architecture to explore the dance between the designed environment and its consequences. Since 2007, the duo have designed, built, and lived in (or on) seven structures, all of them in locations where the public are invited not only to witness, but also to actively engage with the artists in direct dialogue about their practice—an activity that has coalesced into what they call “performance architecture.”

Shelley also works on diagramatic paintings: information-based timelines on culture-related subjects and historical postmortems. He frequently works with Douglas Paulson on installations and environments that attempt to turn mind, text, and meaning inside out (for a better look). They created the “The Last Library” project for Spaces in 2015.

Shelley’s work has been exhibited in more than 10 countries and is in a number of museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Art Museum, and The Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. Shelley received a Painting and Sculpture award from the Joan Mitchell foundation, and has been a fellow of the American Academy in Rome since 2006. He has received NYFA and NEA fellowships in sculpture and new media categories, a Bessie Award for installation art, and grants from the Jerome Foundation and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. He is represented by Pierogi Gallery in New York.

Information on the book mentioned in the interview – The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion is a 2012 social psychology book by Jonathan Haidt, in which the author describes human morality as it relates to politics and religion.Haidt presents moral foundations theory, and applies it to the political beliefs of liberalsconservatives, and libertarians in the US.

In Orbit; 2014 – A collaboration of Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley in Brooklyn. As a performance, the artists lived on the wheel for 9 days and nights. Walking together turns the wheel and brings them their beds, bathroom, kitchen and desks. photo credit Double Cyclops
Work, Spend, Forget; 2013 – In this diagram, Shelley traces the parallel histories of consumerism, manufacturing, and marketing using the form of a dissected frog to suggest their effect on society. photo courtesy of Pierogi Gallery.
The Room Where It Happened; 2020 – A diorama that imagines a series of rooms in which plans are made to alter and direct public opinion for political and economic purposes. An immersive yet diminishing environment, the rooms contain charts, files, books, and notes, all which have a certain historical resonance. Ward Shelley and Douglas Paulson. photo credit: Carlton Bright

 

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  1. […] Ward Shelley spoke with us on Christmas Eve 2020. Recently his work has been split in two directions and he typically works with a collaborator. Alongside his friend and collaborator Douglas Paulson, Shelley often works with words. This year, the pair decided they wanted to create a piece based on the election examining the manipulation of public opinion. Shelley’s background in advertising as well as elements of his upbringing make him acutely aware of this concept. Initially, his gallery was unsure they could float the show this year but ultimately they called him and offered a show for September, shortly before the election. He convened with his wife and Paulson in his studio where they constructed a forced perspective diorama of a place where the truth is manipulated to control actions. The piece was titled The Room Where it Happens. This was installed in the gallery in such a way that it could be seen through the window much like a Christmas window display. To hear more about this project and more, listen to the complete interview. […]

  2. […] Ward Shelley spoke with us on Christmas Eve 2020. Recently his work has been split in two directions and he typically works with a collaborator. Alongside his friend and collaborator Douglas Paulson, Shelley often works with words. This year, the pair decided they wanted to create a piece based on the election examining the manipulation of public opinion. Shelley’s background in advertising as well as elements of his upbringing make him acutely aware of this concept. Initially, his gallery was unsure they could float the show this year but ultimately they called him and offered a show for September, shortly before the election. He convened with his wife and Paulson in his studio where they constructed a forced perspective diorama of a place where the truth is manipulated to control actions. The piece was titled The Room Where it Happens. This was installed in the gallery in such a way that it could be seen through the window much like a Christmas window display. To hear more about this project and more, listen to the complete interview. […]