Ever wonder what the inside of an artist’s mind looks like? Devin Troy Strother isn’t afraid to show us his.
Based in LA, Strother studied at the Art Center College of Design, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Strother’s works are in permanent collections at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has also been featured in solo exhibitions at the Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica, the Marlborough Chelsea in New York, and the Bendixen Contemporary Art in Copenhagen.
In his new show at the Richard Heller Gallery, Strother explores the paradigm of an African American who pursues “the stereotypical route of becoming a rapper, an athlete, or some type of entertainer” and becoming successful; subsequently, making a lot of money and not knowing “how to spend their money wisely or invest it properly.” It’s unapologetically named “They Should’ve Never Given You N*ggas Money,” after a Dave Chappelle comedy sketch about Rick James (you know, that “f*ck your couch, n*gga” sketch).
Stother focuses on furthering the conversation, adding a touch of humor as he does with all his work, with aluminum sculptures painted with acrylic, exploring with neon, wallpaper, and carpet. He masterfully transports his audience into another world as the visual aesthetics of his show are wonderfully correlated to the trope he attempts to bring to light.
Welcome to the Next Dimension: A Tour Through Strother’s “They Should’ve Never Given You N*ggas Money”
After taking the first couple steps into the gallery, your mind goes into a psychedelic mind trip by everything that’s going on. Think listening to Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” while being stoned out of your mind.
To the left of the entrance is a matte, Barbie-pink wall with neon piece of a woman lounging in front the ocean and a palm tree; to the right is a multi-tasking aluminum wall highlighting mixed media pieces and wavy faces on a neon sign. All the while reflecting the full color spectrum from the neon pieces from the other wall and the lights from the roof which reminiscent of Newton’s color spectrum experiment– but this time it’s splattered on a wall instead of through a prism.
After orbiting through a handful of 10-foot-long sculptures of faces stacked on top of each other expressing every feeling imaginable, you find yourself gazing at the Picasso-esqe neon piece at the end of the wall.
Bright and harsh on the eyes, with salmons, whites, reds, blues, yellows all jumbled together in straight lines, squiggly lines, parallel lines, and half smiles and faces; all while being stared at an angry afro rocking dude to the top left corner.
Next to our afroman friend, you’ll notice the end of the progression piece, “N*ggas on a ‘nana,” where several bodies are riding on bananas through rainbows and marshmallow clouds. Sitting below the progression piece: “Too many n*ggas & ‘nanas to count (you count ’em up n*gga)” and “A bunch of n*ggas & ‘nanas falling thru space (n*gga where’s the rocket ship).
WEST GALLERY: Enter “What if Yayoi Kusama had Jungle Fever?”
Greeted by Strother’s “Lazy B*tch,” a blue neon piece depicting a woman positioned on her hands and knees, you’ll experience a sort of head change, as if you are transitioning from our universe and into the matrix en route into the next dimension.
A blood-red wallpaper and carpet filled in with wavy faces, sausage-shaped smiles, Nike swooshes, and cartoon-esque expressional faces. Revisited by the smiley abstract sculptures, another Picasso-looking piece, and a bi-polar neon face that seems to not be able to make up its mind.
In the middle of the gallery, we are greeting once again by our sculpture friends, this time, each beaming a friendly glare, trying to express their unique personality like lonely rescue center pups showing themselves off to a potential owner.
“Oval shaped n*gga” expressing his curiosity for the world with with his head tilted and “single n*gga on a plate” sobbing away the crushing pain of solitude while his alter ego looks at your woman’s behind with a smutty grin.
As you make your way out of the gallery, Strother reminds you of the travels ahead with his satirical piece brought back from his previous shows which says, “BABY, I HAD TO SWERVE THRU MORE F*CKING TRAFFIC YESTERDAY.” Possibly a self-fulfilling prophecy, but most likely if Waze navigates you back home through the 10-FWY.
Devin Troy Strother runs through December 19th at Richard Heller Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave, B-5A
Santa Monica, 90404