Ricky Swallow

January 19–March 20, 2006

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents an exhibition of the sculptor Ricky Swallow, the representative of the Australian pavilion at the 2005 Venice Biennial. Several works from the Biennial exhibition will be on view at P.S.1, including his seminal piece Killing Time. This is the first survey of Swallow's work in a U.S. museum. Ricky Swallow will be on view from January 19, 2006 through March 20, 2006.

Renowned for their footing in personal memory and pop iconography, Swallow's wood sculptures and carvings bridge the gap between monumentality and the everyday, tradition and disposability. His work focuses on themes at the heart of this exercise: the passage of time, immortality and mortality, evolution and survival.

For many of Swallow's works, there exists a generous dose of surrealist wit. This is evident in a 2004 piece entitled The Arrangement, where snakes slither in and out of a mundane bike helmet. The sculpture is brought alive by the dramatic curvature of the snakes' movements, projecting out of different directions and taking the helmet either as hostage or an unlikely habitat. Growing Pains (Contingency for Beginners), a work from 2002, features a disembodied pair of hands (Swallow's), mysteriously extending from the wall. The right hand cups the left, while the left palm holds a cluster of what appear to be pills or beans.

The Exact Dimensions of Staying Behind is a sculpture from 2004-2005 that strongly employs the notion of vanitas, a poignant reminder of our mortality and the evanescence of things. It features a lone skeleton, fused to a chair while clutching a staff in one hand and a carving knife in the other. The skull dramatically gazes above, and according to the artist, the figure is much like him, "living in its pastime, locked into a particular activity, awaiting some release."

Killing Time (2004), perhaps Swallow's most celebrated work and a highlight at the 2005 Venice Biennial, is a sumptuous, life-size sculptural interpretation of his family dining table, overflowing with the marine life he caught and killed as a child. It is informed by his father's occupation as a fisherman in Melbourne, and of vanitas and the Dutch still-life tradition of the 17th century. Harking back to Dutch depictions of lavish banquet tables teeming with wild game and food so ripe to the point of being spoiled, Killing Time emphasizes life at a similar juncture: the bulging of fish eyes and the anatomical intricacies of crustaceans are so meticulously carved and detailed that the animals appear to exist at the cusp of death.

These four works, along with a newly created piece entitled Harpoon Dodger, will be on view at P.S.1. Ricky Swallow is curated by Klaus Biesenbach, P.S.1 Chief Curator and Curator, Department of Film and Media at The Museum of Modern Art.

Ricky Swallow received a B.F.A. in 1996 from the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia, where he currently resides. Since then he has exhibited widely in galleries and museums throughout Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Europe and Japan. His work has also been collected by such institutions as The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, and The National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Swallow was born in 1974 in San Remo, Australia.


This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australian Council, its arts funding and advisory board. International and national projects are supported in part by the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Art, The Trust for Mutual Understanding, FaceCroatia, and the Croatian Ministry of Culture.