Shirley Irons has exhibited in group shows nationally and internationally, including the 2014 Whitney Biennial as part of Critical Practices, Inc. She has had solo exhibitions at White Columns, Queens Museum, Tyler Gallery at Temple University, Staniar Gallery at W&L University, and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica where she is represented, and most recently at the Werkstadt Graz, Austria. Her work has been written about in the LA Times, New York Times, Art Papers, Art Monthly, Time Out, Flash Art, Bomb, Acme, among others and she was profiled in the New Yorker Talk of the town. She lives and works in Manhattan.
Your work is primarily based in photography. How long has this been an interest?
Well, a long time. My first camera was a Kodak Brownie. I would take pictures of water and sky, two-tone grey, the horizon line in the center. They were exceedingly boring. Later, when I was maybe 14 years old, I would sit by Great Kills Harbor and copy calendar pictures of, hmmm, the harbor. Much later I came to realize all that a photograph offers as a starting point for painting: the ready-made subject matter (Richter speaks of reducing the tyranny of choice), the impression of objectivity and the distance between the thing photographed, the photographer, the viewer, and the resultant painting which doubles all the previous distances.
I work from photographs I’ve taken in indeterminate spaces, areas with a low level of information, places that invoke waiting with its inherent anticipation and anxiety. Airports, highways and hospital corridors featured large, but while thinking about these, and about how signage, landscape and architecture are structured to appear reassuring and benign, I became interested in how we are led through our environment and broadened my subjects to include museums, galleries and conference rooms.
I’m interested in how we read images, how little is enough to be legible, how reflections can act as light and memory. By using cultural conventions I can work toward this. By using paint, I can give those side-glances a moment of slow attention. By using photography I can capture them.