Friday, December 1, 2017 at 6 PM – 8 PM

Westport Arts Center
51 Riverside Avenue
Westport, CT 06880

The Westport Arts Center presents Ward Shelley’s What Keeps Mankind Alive on view from December 1, 2017 – March 2, 2018.

Ward Shelley's What Keeps Mankind Alive at Westport Arts Center

What Keeps Mankind Alive features a selected group of diagrammatic paintings that tease out narratives from history and culture. The paintings will be presented within the context of The Last Library, an ongoing collaboration between Shelley and artist Douglas Paulson. The Last Library features a room-sized installation of bookcases and 3,000 books that according to Shelley, “should have been written, but haven’t.”

The works are presented courtesy of the artists and Pierogi Gallery, NYC.

Shelley makes paintings with information the way that historians make stories from facts. Previously on view at Pierogi Gallery, NYC, the exhibition begins with the understanding that people depend on a collection of narratives to explain the world around them.

Shelley explains, “These narratives are stories that weave together a series of facts, or assertions, so they make sense. Narratives create what is true for the believer, which are more germane to the believer’s life than facts.”

Shelley considers his diagrammatic timelines as representations of these narratives. He continues, “Facts are like dots on a graph. The narrative is the curve that connects them, that gives isolated data points meaning, and gives meaning shape . . . As actors in the world, we need a worldview, and a worldview requires construction. Narratives are what we construct – they are the basic building blocks for organizing our outlook and interpreting the world.”

Similarly, The Last Library collects parts to make a whole. In this case, the parts are in the form of book titles, which are highly condensed signifiers of the narratives contained (or at least expected to be) within the book. But there are no actual books, only titles, including The Better Side of Valerie, and You and Your Confirmation Bias, and Fake Fakes.

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Image: History of Science Fiction, v.1 (detail), Courtesy of Pierogi Gallery, NYC