April 20 – May 18
Failure To Thrive
A solo exhibition by Ray Madrigal
Sharp Gallery Open Hours
Monday – Friday: 11am – 6pm
Saturday: 11am – 3pm
Follow ray for more
ray madrigal, 2021
Under certain circumstances failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, not knowing may in fact offer more creative, more cooperative, more surprising ways of being in the world. Failing is something queers do and have always done exceptionally well. […] In fact, if success requires so much effort, then maybe failure is easier in the long run and offers different kinds of rewards.
Judith Halberstam, The Queer Art of Failure
Objects are us.
We use objects to signal identity.
What we eat, drink, wear, drive, and touch is what we are.
Objects find their value in “working”, whether their function is to nourish, entertain,
please, signal, support, or simply sit and look pretty.
Objects lose their value in “not working”.
I have a lot of sympathy, and sometimes love, for objects that do not work. I hope that if
I can demonstrate kindness or understanding to a broken, non-functional, strange object,
I can encourage others to do the same.
If we can tolerate (dare I say love?) dysfunctional, “failed” objects, maybe we can
tolerate (dare I say love?) dysfunctional, “failed” people.
I have dedicated my two-plus decades of life to making objects that “don’t work”– you cannot eat my paintings, or live in my sculptures, or take my video as literal medicine, or use my writing to directly pay rent. My creations, in their lack of practical function, fail before they’re even born. This brings me much shame.
But here I am, fed by painting. Sheltered by making. Soothed by performing. Enriched by writing. I make them despite the shame. I don’t think I will stop.
There is some peace, some power, in knowing that an object “doesn’t work” and finding
joy in it anyway. Acting without use soothes me, gives me permission to be useless, to
All things should have a right to exist without use.
That last statement feels too bold and too certain to be true, and I fli nch as I wait for retaliation. I’m trying the thought out anyway.
If it is useless, so be it.
Failure To Thrive is a gathering place for my works, which fail practically even if they succeed formally. The assembly is made in the hopes that in displaying my shame, others can feel more comfortable with their own. I am convinced that, left alone, our shame corrodes inside of us. Aired out among others, it is transmuted into community and self compassion.
Failure is a concern for all artists, and all citizens – individually and globally, projects fail, be they a painting or a social institution.
Failure is especially a concern for those who are not included in the language of success spoken by western, white-oriented capitalism. Failure is inevitable for someone who is fundamentally excluded from the language of achievement – a language of heterosexual, cisgendered, thin, white, able-bodied, and capitalistic success.
At their simplest, the failed objects I reflect on when creating make me laugh. At their most complex, they challenge me to redefine success, to worldbuild, to reimagine parameters. They make me ask how I know when something has failed, whose eyes I’m looking through when I pity something. Whose definitions of failure and success have I internalized? How will I know if I’ve won? Are winners and losers even functional categories anymore, when we are running a race with no finish line?
Failure To Thrive does not claim to have answers. The show’s goal is not to assert itself as a new metric for success. It hopes only to carve out a space, a moment, in which we can enjoy what communal failure has to offer: a chance for relief, compassion, and a new kind of optimism.
Organized by Marin Williams
Failure to Thrive Week of Performance
April 25 – April 28
Daily from 12 pm – 2 pm
Daily from 12 pm – 2 pm
This event will be hosted in SITE’s Sharp Gallery
Join SITE Galleries for a week of performances featuring performances in conjunction with Ray Madrigal’s solo exhibition, Failure to Thrive, by Ari Karafiol, Charlie Thornton, Rose Bettridge, and Steve Emrich.
Email SITE Directors: firstname.lastname@example.org
SITE Sharp Gallery
37 S. Wabash Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60603
SITE 280 Gallery
280 S. Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL, 60603
Gallery Hours (during exhibitions)
Monday – Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 3pm