Steven Shearer was something of a surprise pick to represent Canada at the 54th Venice Biennale. The Vancouver-based artist has been showing since the mid-1990s, and enjoys a growing international reputation for his diverse body of work that includes numerous drawings and paintings, large-scale photo-collage assemblages of found images, and sound sculptures.
Shearer is best known for his explorations of pop celebrity and various cultural expressions of teen alienation. Much of this work uses material from a semi-mythical, semi-autobiographical vision of 1970s and 1980s suburban teen rebellion–pasty-skinned rockers on basement sofas, set in poses with clear art historical references. The latent power of youth–or at least youthful–disaffection appears throughout Shearer’s work, from his portraits of ’70s boy superstar Leif Garrett to a series of picture-poems composed from death-metal lyrics.
For the 2011 Venice Biennale, Shearer fronts the diminutive Canada pavilion with a enormous mural, Poem for Venice, his latest and largest foray into the death-metal lexicon. Inside, the exhibition includes numerous drawings, paintings and small sculptures that address themes of art and alienation as manifest in various moments and cultural constructs.