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John Early

John Early is a multidisciplinary artist whose installations and other site-based works elevate the overlooked and reframe our relationship to things unnoticed, taken for granted, or cast aside. Early’s work particularly explores the poetic potential of simple gestures to destabilize calcified perspectives and create space for new ways of seeing and understanding. The past several years Early has been exploring applications of gold leaf on surface imperfections and using dirt as a medium for drawing and sculpture. Currently he is part of an interdisciplinary team creating an artist’s book addressing questions of spatial equity related to the absence of basketball courts in Forest Park.

Early earned his MFA from Washington University and his BA from the University of Virginia. His work has been exhibited at The Luminary, White Flag Projects, Center of Creative Arts (COCA), Orange County Center for Contemporary Arts, University of Notre Dame, Taylor University, and Covenant College. Recent public projects include participation in ART-IN-PLACE, a collaborative initiative between CNL Projects and Terrain Exhibitions; the Material World of Modern Segregation symposium hosted by Washington University; and MetroScapes, an Arts in Transit program placing artwork in bus shelters throughout the bi-state region.

Personal website

Work by John Early

A mirror on a stand, angled up at the sky, framing wispy clouds; the stand is two-legged, positioned in the soil of a garden in front of a house. Tiles trace out curved paths around the garden.

The Sun Will Get Up Soon, 2020

Mirror, wood, and rebar. 12" x 12" x 30".
Various gilded/golden objects—including a bracelet, a flat headed screwdriver bit, and a dental flosser, among other things—photographed on a light gray-teal ground.

Land Marks, 2018

Found objects and gold leaf.
A photograph of the sky, blue with the sun in the center slightly to the left, illuminating the sky in a bright white radial gradient, obscured by a chair floating in the air/soaring through the sky; the glint of the sun shines through its (mesh) material a little. Trees visible at the lower edge, power lines visible towards the bottom.

Eclipse (chair), 2016

Digital image.
In a gallery space, whose walls are brick with wooden floors, an installation: various car parts placed on cinder blocks, some of which are stacked. Two tires are placed opposite each other, in the midground.

Objects in Mirror, 2014

Found car parts and cinder blocks. Installation view at The Garage, Charlottesville, VA.
A gallery space: the walls are white and arch overhead, the floor gray. There is a circular window at the top in the center, through which bright light shines through, illuminating the gallery: in the center of the space is a curved wooden ramp supported by a wooden structure in front of an opening (whose windows and door are framed with wood).

Terra Firma , 2011

Wood and audio. Installation view at The Luminary, St. Louis, MO.
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Whereas Hoops, June 5, 2021

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Whereas Hoops Artists’ Book, 2022

56 pages, 6” x 8.75”, Edition of 100

The Whereas Hoops Artists’ Book combines writing, drawing, digital collage, and archival research to highlight the rich history of basketball in St. Louis, reveal the longstanding racism present in the sporting landscape of Forest Park, and call for basketball courts to be built there. Copies were delivered to the Mayor of St. Louis, the Board of Aldermen, the Parks Department, and other local leaders to broaden the reach and impact of the project. In part due to the efforts of Whereas Hoops, outdoor basketball courts are scheduled to open in Forest Park in 2024.

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Whereas Hoops Artists’ Book, 2022

56 pages, 6” x 8.75”, Edition of 100
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Whereas Hoops, July 15, 2022

This image shows a group of children playing on a basketball hoop I built and placed atop a prominent hill in Forest Park during an outdoor screening of the film “Love and Basketball.” Part of the “Whereas Hoops” project, the temporary installation drew an array of ballers and curious individuals inquiring about the hoop’s presence and why basketball was otherwise nowhere to be found in Forest Park. That evening, hundreds of stickers were handed out to raise awareness about basketball’s absence from the park and garner support for bringing basketball to the park so it can be a more welcoming and inclusive recreational space for all St. Louisans.
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Whereas Hoops, June 5, 2021

These two images document one of ten occasions I brought a basketball hoop to Forest Park as part of the interdisciplinary activist project, “Whereas Hoops”. Forest Park is one of the largest urban parks in the country yet has never had basketball courts. Combining research, writing, podcasting, and creative practice, the “Whereas Hoops” project raises awareness about the lack of basketball in Forest Park, highlights the racism and classism underlying its absence, and publicly calls for basketball courts to be built in the park. The basketball hoop pictured here is a custom-built, mobile sculpture that attaches to the back of my minivan. This date marked the first time basketball had ever been played in Forest Park since it opened to the public in 1876.