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Swoon (Curry, Caledonia)free

American, 21st century, female.

Born 1978, in New London (Connecticut), United States.

Painter, printmaker, graffiti artist, installation artist. Mixed media, graffiti art, street art, portraits.

The artist and activist Caledonia Curry, more commonly known as Swoon, trained as a Renaissance-style portrait painter at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Upon graduating, she found the medium to be too limiting and was discouraged by the exclusivity of the art world. Swoon thus began making wheat-paste graffiti interventions. Using traditional woodcut prints on recycled newspaper, she began her career as a graffiti artist by affixing elegant portraits of friends, family, and loved ones on the exteriors of abandoned buildings and dilapidated structures. Typically life-size, the portraits capture intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of her subjects. Communities soon began to identify with her vignettes due to their humanist qualities and the frankness of her subjects.

For the 2009 Venice Biennale, Swoon and a team of artists, activists, and anarchists banded together to offer an unofficial contribution. Compiling several tons of trash collected from the streets of New York City, they constructed three vessels and sailed for two weeks from the coast of Slovenia to crash the Biennale. Infiltrating the elite art world, the outsiders? intervention called attention to the consumption, diaspora, transience, and excess of art festivals.

While street art is usually considered an illegal activity, Swoon does not consider her works to be an act of vandalism but rather an act of beautification due to the fragility of the paper materials she uses. Inspired by the public works of Gordon Matta Clark, Swoon views her interventions as ephemeral. Unlike spray paint, the traditional medium of graffiti artists, her paper works quickly rot, decay, and flake away.

In 2015, Swoon founded The Heliotrope Foundation. The mission of the non-profit organisation is to provide communities struck by natural disasters with resources and creative solutions, such as teaching residents communities how to build weather-resistant shelters with sustainable materials. One core project, Braddock Tiles, funded by a successful $100,000 Kickstarter campaign in 2015, will hire and train local young adults to make colourful ceramic tiles by hand. The tiles will be used to build a roof on the abandoned church building in North Braddock, Pennsylvania, that houses the workshop.

Swoon currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Group Exhibitions

2005, Greater New York, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY

2006, Graffiti, Brooklyn Museum, NY

2007, Generations USA, Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev, Ukraine

2008, The Way That We Rhyme: Women, Art & Politics, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA

Solo Exhibitions

2002, NGBK, Berlin, Germany

2005, Swoon, Deitch Projects, New York, NY

2006, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

2008, Swoon, Deitch Projects, New York, NY

2008, Drown Your Boats, New Image Art Gallery, Los Angeles, CA

2009, Swimming Cities of Serenissima, Venice Biennale, Italy

2011, Anthropocene Extinction, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA

2014, Submerged Motherlands, Brooklyn Museum, NY

Bibliography

  • Manco, Tristan: Street Logos, Thames & Hudson, New York, 2004.
  • Pieretti, Chris/Globus, Dorothy Twining: Re:Vision, Le Tigre, New York, 2006.
  • Swoon: Swoon, Abrams, New York, 2010.
  • Deitch, Jeffrey/Gastman, Roger/Ros, Aaron: Art in the Streets, Skira Rizzoli, New York, 2011.
  • Ainger, Katharine: Drowning Cities: A Voyage to Venice on Junk Art Rafts, Libros au Cordel, 2014.