Works Exhibited


In addition to making paintings, drawings, and collages characterized by infectious exuberance and raw materiality, Spencer Sweeney produces immersive multimedia environments that transform gallery spaces into open workshops and performance stages, exposing the traditionally private realm of the artist’s studio to public scrutiny.

Born in Philadelphia, Sweeney graduated from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1997. He then moved to New York, where, in concert with his visual practice, he helped establish the nightclub Santos Party House and worked as a DJ. He also cofounded the seminal noise-art group Actress (1997–2001) with Lizzi Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, performing as its drummer at gallery and museum events including Criss Cross: Some Young New Yorkers III at MoMA PS1 in 1999. Sweeney cites jazz as having influenced his reliance on improvisation, and alongside frequent references to popular culture in his work, he alludes to the history of art. His reclining nudes, portraits, and self-portraits, for example, reverberate with the amplified and distorted voices of Pablo Picasso, Édouard Manet, and Henri Matisse, while also combining the extemporaneous vigor of Neo-Expressionism with the knowing repetition of signature motifs.

In 2015 Spencer Sweeney, a 500-page book of conversations between the artist and some of his myriad inspirations from the worlds of cinema, literature, music, New York nightlife, and contemporary art, was published, testifying to his fundamental investment in context and open exchange. Sweeney’s painting and drawing salon Headz (2017–)—a collaboration with Urs Fischer—hosts performances by experimental jazz musicians such as Pete Drungle, Craig Harris, and Jay Rodriguez, and has received international stagings in Berlin, Mexico City, and Paris. In his current work, Sweeney continues to invoke the spirit of “availablism” (a term coined by performance artist Kembra Pfahler to describe making art with materials to hand), interweaving images of disarming psychological directness with a fluid and multilayered examination of the creative process itself.

Spencer Sweeney: Self-Portraits poster

Spencer Sweeney: Self-Portraits

Cover of the Spring 2019 issue of Gagosian Quarterly magazine, featuring artwork by Jonas Wood

Gagosian Quarterly: Spring 2019 Issue


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