Gary Sweeney’s work is based in a nostalgic era. He uses pop culture—both vintage camp craft and up-to-date digital photography—to look back over our country’s recent past and see the good, and the not so good. Wordplay is a constant, including his series based on found signs that he has installed in multiple languages and countries, including England, France, and Japan. Literature, old movies and quotes of sages inform his work. He draws observations on life from them and from his own history. Social commentary is poignant, sometimes stinging, but buffered with wit. The medium is always in keeping with the concept and is part of the fun.
Growing up in Southern California, Sweeney attended the University of California Irvine where he encountered artists in the classroom like John Baldessari, John Mason, John Paul Jones, Ed Moses, James Turrell and Robert Irwin. His work sometimes draws on these influences—like Baldessari’s use of found imagery—and sometimes pushes off from them to go in the other direction, particularly against the stripped down aesthetic of minimalism. Living and working in Texas has honed Sweeney’s unique way of seeing things, everything from tourist spots, historical figures like Davy Crockett, and a body of work that explores border issues.
Sweeney’s public art enlivens several cities besides San Antonio, including Charlotte, NC (1999), Memphis, TN (1998), Denver, CO (1993-2), and Manhattan Beach, CA (1992). In addition to his exhibitions at Parchman Stremmel Galleries, Sweeney has had solo exhibitions at the Southwest School of Art & Craft, San Antonio; Lawndale Art Center, Houston; Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH; and the University of Florence, Italy. His work is in numerous corporate, museum and government collections, including the San Antonio Spurs AT&T Center, Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art and the City of Denver.