Billy Mayer: The Shape of Things Coming to Grand Rapids Art Museum

The  Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) announced the next installment of its Michigan Artist Series, Billy Mayer: The Shape of Things. The exhibition is on view at the Museum through February 2, 2020 and features the work of one of West Michigan’s most acclaimed sculptors.  

The late Billy Mayer (1953-2017) created work in numerous media and materials that addressed the mundane elements of daily life as well as bigger, broader ideas about human existence. The Shape of Things brings together a major installation, as well as large and small-scale sculpture that demonstrate Mayer’s creative imagination, his impressive skill with various materials, and his wide-ranging sources—from Surrealism and Pop Art to rock and roll and magic tricks. Mayer painstakingly crafted every element of his art by hand, and mastered many materials and techniques during his lifetime, from glazed ceramics, to glass, and metal. 

“Billy Mayer’s artwork reflects just how intensely engaged he was with the world around him,” commented GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt. “Because of his great facility with materials, he was able to translate his inner vision into complex, delightful, and engaging works of art.” 

The Shape of Things features sculpture from three primary bodies of work: brightly-colored aluminum sculptures of figures and objects in unique configurations; realistic trompe l’oeil replications of everyday objects with unusual display; and Mayer’s most ambitious and important work, the large-scale installation, Here

Here is a shelf-mounted installation of over 400 individual ceramic skulls, each topped with a different everyday image or object—a guitar, a hammer, the McDonald’s arches—all handcrafted in clay. In its totality,  Here creates a visual diary of the artist’s daily life, a self-portrait of his thoughts, memories, and experiences. 

In addition to his art, Mayer had a distinguished teaching career at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, where he taught for thirty-nine years. GRAM held an opening reception and panel discussion for The Shape of Things on Thursday, August 29 honoring Mayer’s legacy as an educator. Chaired by GRAM Chief Curator Ron Platt, the event featured former students and colleagues of Mayer’s who shared their personal experiences of his impact on their art education and subsequent careers. 

Support for the Michigan Artist Series is generously provided by: Steelcase Inc., Beusse & Porter Family Foundation, The Jury Foundation, and Greg and Meg Willit. 

For museum hours and admission fees, call 616.831.1000 or visit artmuseumgr.org

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