Keith Mayerson (b. 1966, Cincinnati) is best known for paintings canonizing iconic events and figures from American history. Depicting images culled from personal photographs, comics, movie stills, and news footage, Mayerson’s subjects range from celebratory—President Barack Obama, Annie Oakley, and Superman—to tragic, including the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. With a gestural style and vibrant palette, Mayerson’s salon-style installations reflect a collective mythology inflected with pop culture and queer histories.
Part of the ongoing series “My American Dream,” which first appeared in the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Rome (Santa Fe High School Victim Survivor Recounts Being Shot in Head, Escaping Gunman) (2018) portrays Rome Shubert, a sixteen-year-old student and star pitcher who narrowly escaped death during the 2019 Santa Fe High School shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. The painting shows Shubert in an MSNBC interview recalling how he was shot in the head and barely survived. Mayerson’s painting highlights the distortions and blurs resulting from his process of translating the television image to a digital printout and then to a painting. The portrait comprises, in Mayerson’s words, “figurative abstract elements.” He goes on to describe how the work unpacks media history: “The painting . . . becomes a mindscape of what this young man might have just gone through.”
Mayerson’s first major solo exhibition, “My American Dream,” appeared at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art in 2017. His work has been exhibited internationally, and he has participated in various group shows, including at the Underground Museum, Los Angeles (2018); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); Whitney Biennial (2014); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2013). His work is featured in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Cleveland Museum of Art; Columbus Museum of Art; and the Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts.