Arts·Opening Up

Humans are complicated! Alex Sheriff's artwork examines our species and evolution in a cheeky way

"We should listen to scientists and when science feels dry we should listen to artists."

'We should listen to scientists and when science feels dry we should listen to artists'

Humans are complicated! Alex Sheriff’s artwork examines our species and evolution in a cheeky way

CBC Arts

3 months ago
4:10
"We should listen to scientists and when science feels dry we should listen to artists." 4:10

In Opening Up, the sequel to our self-shot video series COVID Residencies, we're asking artists how the upheavals and uprisings of 2020 are affecting their process and work.

Alex Sheriff's body of work attempts to diffuse the gap between natural and human history. It's a grand and ambitious effort that Sheriff pulls off with grace and a playful style. Sheriff, an Oakville, Ont. native who currently lives and works in Los Angeles, practises in many avenues of art: painting, drawing, animation, textiles, ceramics and murals.

During the pandemic, Sheriff created two notable animation works. The first, "At Home Forever," is a light take on isolation and repetition during the pandemic's early stages of social distancing. The second takes a much different tone. "Sound of the Beast" tackles issues surrounding police brutality and the Black experience in America. (Both animations are available to watch on his website.)

His upcoming series "Closing Parties'' is a collection of paper collages accompanied by a video animation. The title of the series is meant to be double-edged. At first glance, the collage imagery seems celebratory — but when you look a little longer, you realize it is actually quite apocalyptic. The cataclysmic events happening in the artwork are disguised as red carpet events, weekend excursions and fireworks.

A piece from Alex Sheriff's series Closing Parties. (Alex Sheriff)

The series relates to the many events during and leading up to this bizarre year, as Sheriff explains that the work includes themes and imagery around "the toppling of structures both literal and figurative, the painting of new ideas over old ones, the rising temperatures of the planet, chaotic weather, mass extinctions."

In Sheriff's process, his different disciplines tend to morph in and out of each other in an evolutionary style. With his collage pieces he uses unfinished work, old sacrificed work, sketches, scraps and notes; he explains, "Every piece will eventually get repurposed in the same way that all matter in the universe can't be created or destroyed."

In this video, watch Sheriff's "Closing Parties" series come to life.

The series will be on display at Patel Brown East in Toronto in 2021 from January 15th – March 6th.

Follow Alex Sheriff on Instagram here and see more of his work via his website.

Work by Alex Sherif from his series Closing Parties. (Alex Sheriff)

About the Author

As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling stories...to himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.

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