Hales is delighted to announce Anthony Cudahy’s debut solo exhibition at the gallery, Coral Room. Cudahy (b.1989 Florida, USA) received a BFA from Pratt Institute, NY in 2011 and completed an MFA at Hunter College, NY in 2020. He lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.

Cudahy employs symbolism and narrative devices, combined with depth of feeling to create works that are intimate, profound, and mysterious. The exhibition features some of Cudahy’s largest paintings to date — paired with small, close portraits; still lifes; and drawings — creating rich interplays and complex lines of thought. Alongside painting, drawing has recently become a significant part of Cudahy’s practice.

The works in Coral Room are a testament to relationships and human connection, physically and mentally. The warmth and quietness of the scenes are undercut by a sense of tension, reflecting personal and collective anxiety. There is a presence of narrative possibility playing out within and beyond Cudahy’s painted and drawn surfaces. The figures are waiting, creating the sensation that they are on the brink of something about to happen.

These new works mark a continued evolvement and refining of Cudahy’s practice. Still drawing from his expansive archive, developed from a continuous collaging of ideas, Cudahy is now setting up his own imagery, photographing subjects. For Cudahy, allegorical elements of the new works have progressively become autobiographically focused. Themes and motifs in the works stem from looking to vernacular photography, etchings from the Middle Ages, the symbolism of specific plants, to a scene from La Dolce Vita. In Cudahy’s carefully constructed images, he has also become more specific about place. Architectural elements of apartment interiors and exteriors, as well as rural and beach scenes ground his storytelling.

Coral Room takes its title from a song by British performer Kate Bush, whose enchanting lyrics are packed with visual imagery, which Cudahy has delicately woven into the exhibition — sightings of spiders, webs, and little brown jugs. Moreover, the song speaks to the passing of time, memories, relationships, loss, and an attachment to objects. Like Bush, Cudahy is a storyteller who borrows from the past — where she creates songs within songs, Cudahy makes paintings within paintings.

As Cudahy describes, he ‘quotes’ from art history. Often repeating a visual motif which in turn becomes part of his lexicon and own symbolic shorthand. When looking to art history, Cudahy is drawn to works that have multiple readings. In Washed up on shore (gift from the nothing) he references Soutine’s Still life with Rayfish which itself is an adaptation of Chardin’s The Rayfish (1725). Details such as the reflections in the windows of Lily and snake bundle (“And she took the time to believe in what she said and”) are a homage to Lois Dodd. In Tempest (rooftop) Cudahy borrows compositional and atmospheric elements from Giorgione’s The Tempest — the Renaissance painting made in the early 1500s which still sparks much debate between art historians. The elusive meaning of the scene and mystery surrounding the work is echoed in Cudahy’s piece, the viewer is encouraged to decipher the narrative puzzle. Three figures are bathed in a golden red light, which could be viewed as sunset with an approaching storm or as a strange, unnatural color palette. This masterfully cultivated ambiguity is seen throughout the exhibition. Details are open to interpretation, in Anti-bausor tree (protected sleepers, wolf’s-bane and spider around) it is unclear as to whether the bausor tree has caused harm to the figures or if they are in a peaceful slumber. Similarly with portrayals of animals in the works, their allegorical presence is not definitively good or evil.

Cultivating subtleties and complexities, Cudahy’s expansive curiosity and empathy is evident in the works throughout the exhibition, deftly combining the historic and cinematic with human connection. The idiosyncratic works have the power to suspend time, speaking to an emotional truth and the continuum of experience.