Justin Sterling is an interdisciplinary visual artist originally from Houston, Texas currently living and working in New York City. Sterling earned his Masters of Fine Art from Parsons School of Design (2015-17) and attended the Interdisciplinary Art and Theory Program in New York City (2018). Sterling utilizes the cityscape as a vehicle to inform the storytelling and interplay of public and private human experience in his work. Sterling’s cross-disciplinary approach of performance, music, sculpture and painting acts as a catalyst for social, political, and environmental discourse and activism. His work has been shown at The Old Stone House in Brooklyn, New York (2019), The Olympia Project in Brooklyn, New York (2019), CampoBase LPS in Turin, Italy (2019), Panopoly Performance Lab in Williamsburg, New York (2018), among others. Sterling’s work will be featured in the upcoming exhibition, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration at MoMA PS1 curated by Dr. Nicole R. Fleetwood, Amy Rosenblum-Martin, and Jocelyn Miller (2020).
I met Justin Sterling in front of a residential building in Lower East Side, New York in late summer of 2019. Entering the building, we went through the foyer and down a flight of dimly lit stairs to the basement. Sterling’s basement studio was lined with completed artwork and works-in-progress that he was preparing for his solo show, Broken Windows with The Olympia Project in Williamsburg (2019). The solo show surveyed a collection of works that employ found window frames as Sterling’s canvas. The windows are collected from residential demolition and renovation sites and signify the ongoing gentrification of New York City. Sterling utilizes assemblage and repair to build onto the history of human experience apparent in the cracks, stains and discoloration of the windows. Sterling’s additive approach began with found items from the city such as fire hydrants, transportation signs, sinks, a battering ram and other objects marking the city. Some windows grow plants between the panes while others ooze with foam, cracks sealed shut with caulking. Sediments of natural and man-made substances create striations and remind the viewer of the layers of families that circulate the buildings of New York City. Plastic blinds are crammed into another, obscuring the other side of the glass. The objects hold vibrational energy of everyday interaction and their vibrations start to emanate as Sterling picks up his trumpet. His performative song captures the resilience and pain of New York’s displaced communities.