Ketter, who was born in the US, has lived in Sweden for over 20 years, and currently has an exhibit on display at the Moderna Museet.
“He is one of the most prominent, influential artists in Sweden,” says Magnus af Petersens, the curator of the exhibit. “Clay Ketter is one of Sweden’s greatest US imports.”
Ketter’s creations cannot be characterised by just one artistic realm – from installations to photography and spackling, the exhibit truly has no two pieces alike. But as with much of modern art, it’s the deeper meanings of his works that make them truly unique.
When arriving at the Ketter exhibit, guests will be confronted by a large windowless white house, which is free standing in the centre of the room, entitled “Tomb.” On all the walls are various types of works: some photographs and some involving many mediums created by the hands of the artist. They are glossy, mat, wooden, floral, colourful, and dull – a true melange of feelings and emotions conveyed.
One can easily peruse the entire collection in under five minutes, but comprehending Ketter’s vision takes much longer. A 15-minute video at the entrance to the showroom entitled “Möt/Meet Clay Ketter” is an excellent resource in assisting visitors in this task; it is interesting to watch both before and after seeing the pieces in person. The video gives a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the exhibit, including interviews with Ketter, who says his photography work focuses on three main areas: roads, Valencia, and Gulf Coast slabs from Mississippi.
“Holiday Drive Detail,” for example, on first glance looks like an aerial photograph of an ordinary backyard pool that has been overgrown with weeds and mud. However, in the video, Ketter discusses his 2005 visit to Mississippi, post hurricane Katrina. He interviewed survivors of the storm, and photographed the foundations of homes destroyed by it.
His series of “Road” photos again appear to be aerial shots of tarmac and cement, but Ketter says he sees beyond this initial perception.
“There’s language in old roads in countrysides,” Ketter says in Möt/Meet Clay Ketter. “The layers of pavement have been discoloured over time. Nobody had control over the way the pavement has aged.”
Other installation pieces seem to be inspired by kitchens, but they explore the dimensions of layers, says Ketter, who adds that he hopes his work will make the viewer ask questions. He says he wants to examine how things are made, how they are constructed, and how the surface can involve “layers upon layers.” Consequently, visitors might just feel compelled to walk up to the installation “My Neighbour and I,” for example, in an attempt to discover why the cupboards have no handles.
“My work is banal, but that’s okay,” Ketter says. Though anyone with a keen artistic eye, or who is willing to open their mind to the visions of Ketter’s work, is sure to find themselves pleasantly surprised with his explorations in modern art.