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Darren Waterston: Opulence and ruin

Contributed by Hannah Kennedy, Two Coats Intern / Darren Waterston�s paintings and an installation called Filthy Lucre are on view at Mass MOCA through January 2015. Ranging from small canvases to engrossing alien landscapes, Waterston’s paintings evoke otherworldly abstractions: dark and mysterious yet inviting. Filthy Lucre, a re-interpreted
interior installation, represents a major departure from Waterston�s previous work but still evokes a similar aesthetic and
experiential scene.

[Images: Darren Waterston, Filthy Lucre, 2013-2014, mixed media, 20 x 30 x 12 feet, courtesy of the artist and DC Moore Gallery.]

Filthy Lucre is Waterston�s room-sized interpretation of the relationship between artist, James McNeil Whistler, and patron, Fredrick Leyland. Viewers find themselves in a sumptuous
interior painted in lush greens and golds. Reminiscent of the gilded age, with its regal display of peacocks and collection of hand-painted pottery, the interior evokes an orientalist
interest in collecting exotic works of art, a hobby common in the late
19th century. Shattered pottery and collapsing shelves line every inch
of the room. A soundscape composed by BETTY completes the quality of ruin in Waterston�s eerie scene.

Gold paint dripping from every inch of the room is mirrored by lamps hanging from the ceiling. The oozing gold falls heavily from a scene of peacocks painted above the mantel. The paint collects in stalactite formations from the mantelpiece to eventually form a pool that seeps across the floor. This section of the room encapsulates Waterston�s critique of the gilded age–a time of regal consumption, learned collecting, and, eventually, precipitous decline. And his quietly jarring depiction of opulence brought to ruin is a reminder that even the rich and powerful are vulnerable to the ravages of time and the forces of history.

Darren Waterston: Uncertain Beauty,� curated by Susan Cross. Mass MOCA, North Adams, MA, Through January 2015.

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