Neil MacDonald: Pilgrimage at Shaheen Modern and Contemporary

Shaheen-Mexico No. 13 33 x 44 in_crop

For his fourth solo exhibition at SHAHEEN, Neil MacDonald expands his ongoing inquiry into humankind’s innate need to bring order to chaos and make sense of the inexplicable, and the ways in which image production — from primitive cave paintings, to Renaissance history paintings, to photography, to the contemporary mass media — have served that need throughout history. At the same time that MacDonald reminds us of the role that painting and other forms of visual representation have played in recording, processing, and disseminating information about oftentimes chaotic phenomena and historical events, the visual profusion, ambiguity, and erosion of imagery in his work evokes the simultaneous power of visual media to create information, distort reality and, ultimately, perpetuate alternate versions of history.


While MacDonald’s paintings and drawings of the past fifteen years have hinged on a broad range of visual subject matter and specific subtexts, including airline crash sites, environmental disasters, and the alien landing site at Roswell, New Mexico, his systematic approach to making them has remained as consistent as the overarching themes that unite them. All of MacDonald’s work derives from carefully selected pre-existing photographic images, many of which begin as film stills. The artist filters his  chosen  imagery through a meticulous and consistently applied working process that involves the deconstruction and reconstruction of the original image. To begin with, he may subject an image to any number of low-tech manipulations, such as enlarging, reducing or cropping using a printer or photocopier.  He then superimposes a rational grid on the image, grids and tapes off the canvas, and transposes the image in an even-handed manner, grid square by square.


MacDonald’s forthcoming exhibition at Shaheen will focus on a series of recent paintings and drawings that depict religious pilgrimages and the art and architecture church interiors. These works explore ways in which the primordial emotions of pagan experience become channeled into organized pilgrimages and rituals, where the hopes, passions and fears of participants are collectively expressed through a cathartic and sometimes psychodramatic experience that can simultaneously contain elements of reverence, comedy, and terror. The central tension of MacDonald’s “Pilgrimage” series arises from the combination of the inspirational zeal and dynamism of the performances and pantomimes depicted in the paintings, and the flattened, pixelated visual effect yielded by the artist’s methodical working process.


A graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Art and recipient of an MFA from Kent State University, Neil MacDonald currently lives and works in Ravenna, Ohio. His work has appeared in numerous one-person and group exhibitions in galleries and museums, including a 2008 solo exhibition at the Akron Art Museum.

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Cleveland, Ohio 44113



Neil MacDonald: Pilgrimage: September 17 – November 18
Specs for the attached image:

Neil MacDonald
Mexico No. 13, 2016
oil on canvas
33 x 44 inches