“My work has always been able to hold more than one contradictory viewpoint at once. That’s the whole purpose of my work,” the late artist Ashley Bickerton says in a new short documentary titled The Importance of Being Elsewhere. (An excerpt of the film is viewable above.)
He continues, “An artwork can hold two completely—or three, or five—viewpoints. It doesn’t have to make a point. It can make several.”
The new film, directed by Thomas Nordanstad, will be screened on Sunday at the Anthology Film Archives in New York, in conjunction with the artist’s latest exhibition at Gagosian, which opens at its West 21st Street space in Chelsea. It is the first exhibition of Bickerton’s work since the gallery announced it would represent the acclaimed artist in 2022, six months before his death at 63 that November.
That exhibition, titled “Susie’s Mother Tongue,” presents a suite of 25 new “Blur” paintings by the artist, completed in the final year of his life, as well as sculptures made throughout his career. The Importance of Being Elsewhere, a reference to the artist’s relocation from the top of the New York art world to Bali in the 1990s, includes footage of Bickerton in the studio as he works on the series, as well as interviews with fellow artist-friends like Matthew Barney, Damien Hirst, and Jamian Juliano-Villani.
Of his latest work, Bickerton says in the documentary, “I wanted these paintings to commune with Caravaggio and Tintoretto, not Jack Goldstein and Ed Ruscha.”
Before his passing, Bickerton was open about his mortality and his diagnosis with ALS, which caused him to use an electric wheelchair to get around.
“What I’ve noticed is that no matter what work you do, it will always be seen through the prism of your condition,” he told ARTnews on the occasion of this representation with Gagosian. “My last show [in 2022 at Lehmann Maupin] was naturally seen through the prism of my mortality—staring at the infinite. The work I’m doing now will probably be even more so. There’s something sort of ghostly about it. I have no problem talking about it, but I don’t want to be known or judged by this.”
More information about the Sunday screening can be found on Gagosian’s website.