The MCA presents the first solo museum exhibition of Chicago-based artist Paul Heyer (b. 1982).
In his most immersive installation to date, Heyer creates a multisensory, dream-like realm that combines his ethereal paintings and sculptures, which are rooted in his experiences as an active participant of rave and club culture within the LGBTQ community, to explore out-of-body experiences and psychedelic highs.
The exhibition is set to a hypnotic, meditative soundtrack with ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) sounds—popularized in YouTube videos and among subcultures—meant to prompt hypnotic or hallucinogenic feelings in listeners. In the background of this soundscape, we see Heyer’s large, pastel paintings feature floating figures of cowboys, animals, skeletons, and black holes.
The exhibition also presents his recent sculptural work, including a constellation of brooms that hangs in a circle above the viewer, suggesting a psychedelic fantasy, and a sculpture consisting of metallic lamé fabric draped across a bed-like platform in the center of the gallery. The silky material and its sheen provide another reference to the opulence of drag culture as well as to Heyer’s experiences of drug-induced euphoria at night-long raves and dance clubs.
Together, the works create a balance between gravity and levity, light and dark, and past and future, prompting viewers to reflect upon a utopian model of the universe.
This exhibition is organized by Omar Kholeif, Manilow Senior Curator and Director of Global Initiatives, and Erin Toale, former Curatorial Assistant, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. It is presented in the Dr. Paul and Dorie Sternberg Family Gallery and Ed and Jackie Rabin Gallery on the museum’s third floor.Paul Heyer, Small Cowboy, 2015. Acrylic on silk chiffon; 15 × 20 in. (38.1 × 50.8 cm). Photo: Robert Heishman, courtesy of Paul Heyer and Chapter-NY.