Caitlin Cherry

Published January 7, 2015

“Caitlin Cherry demands more than mere painting is willing to provide. She teases the viewer with the promise of illusionistic painterly space and then she catapults her canvas into the void, forcing it to exist in real time, building little fortresses, and firing cannons in its general direction. I have a sense she will continue to break apart the rules governing painting and sculpture, and tease that unsettling sweet spot that disarms viewers’ expectations.” -Kara Walker

For Brooklyn-based artist Caitlin Cherry, painting and sculpture are hardly separate disciplines: Cherry carefully renders chaotic figurative compositions on canvases only to merge them into a larger multi­media work. “It’s sculpture trying to mold into painting, painting trying to mold into sculpture,” she says.

After obtaining her MFA in 2012 from Columbia University, where Kara Walker came to know her as her professor, Cherry got her big break with a summer 2013 solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. Looking at Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches of weapons, the 27-year-old artist constructed three catapults to scale and positioned her paintings within the museum’s perimeters to appear as though they were on the verge of being launched forward. “I was thinking about it a little theatrically,” she says. “Like, if the museum had to defend itself, what does the museum have a lot of? It has a lot of paintings and objects.” Titled “Hero Safe,” the larger inspiration for the show was the increasingly war-oriented mind-set Cherry sensed developing in the United States. “America is interested in the militarization of everything,” she says. “Art would probably be the final frontier.”

Next, Cherry is thinking how to execute a conceptual “art-world security company” along the lines of Blackwater, the private security contractor made infamous for civilian killings during the Iraq war. “It’s the idea of creating a company that would be doing that for the art world,” she explains, “training museum guards and gallerists to be ready for certain war scenarios that are abstract and out there.”