Keith Mayerson
My American Dream: This Land is Your Land
November 16, 2021–January 8, 2022
188 & 172 East 2nd Street
Opening Reception: Tuesday November 16, 2021. 6–8pm

188 & 172 East 2nd Street
New York, NY 10009

Karma is pleased to present My American Dream: This Land is Your Land, a solo exhibition by Keith Mayerson.

“This Land is Your Land is the latest chapter of a personal project called My American Dream, a narrative series that I began twenty years ago after witnessing the attack in New York on September 11th, 2001. I felt that the 9/11 crisis was a call to action for me to focus on the forces that make American Dreams become realities. I rendered the images that inspired me and gave me hope—the cultural icons, civil rights leaders, family scenes, and sublime landscapes that represent what is at stake for me and family and country. After thirty years with my husband Andrew Madrid (and twelve years of our legal marriage), the narrative continues: My American Dream celebrates the icons that made our domestic dream possible and made America something to cherish and love. The heroes of my life, from childhood to now, give me guidance, faith, and solace. I hope to communicate their spirit to the viewer: they are worthy of memorialization as reminders that our country’s democracy is worth saving.

All the works in the show depict philosophers and activists, cultural leaders and icons, and American vistas that have captivated and influenced me deeply. Each of them symbolize how the American Dream is forged by dream seekers of all kinds. I created this series of paintings and drawings to help me process our moment, focusing on the heroic guardian angels that light our way in dark times. Together, as a narrative installation, I think of this body of work as a panoramic tableau: like Duccio di Buoninsegna’s The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain at the Frick Museum (as appropriated in a painting for this exhibition) that was originally just one panel of a huge altarpiece in Siena, I also hope that each work can stand on its own, as in the individual panels of a cathedral fresco. 

My American Dream is a cosmology of the America we live in. This Land is Your Land focuses on the profound transformational leaders that have made that dream possible today. With inspiration, optimism, and hope, we can learn from our past to continue to build an awesome future.”


—Keith Mayerson


Keith Mayerson (b. 1966, Cincinnati, OH) is inspired by symbols of American history and pop culture and depicts familiar figures who have impacted the country’s consciousness, in addition to personal scenes and his abstract “iconscapes.” His work allegorizes themes of resilience, determination, and the “American dream.” Iconic images, heroes, places, and events are rendered luminous and transcendent through Mayerson’s micro-managed brushwork and coloring. His subjects are often selected for their backstories and cultural impact; in Mayerson’s paintings, they embody contemporary national feelings and sentiments. While his formal features hint at a French Impressionist influence, his images could be seen to recall the work of Symbolists in their spiritual components, cultural commentary, and review, in addition to being inspired by the more visionary aspects of American Modernists and the Old Masters.

Mayerson’s paintings are informed by his immersion into his subjects. Like a method actor, he listens to albums, biographies, or other audio materials on the figures in question while painting them. The entrenched conceptual investment and consideration behind his practice imparts an earnest, emotive resonance. His exhibitions are often installations of images that create larger narratives. Each work is imbued with allegorical content that relates to the world, yet allows through its formal nuances for the transcendent and sublime. The works stand on their own for form and content, but like a prose poem of images on walls, experienced in context the images as a series, the viewer creates the ultimate meaning for the installations. Since the George W. Bush era, his long-running non-linear narrative “My American Dream” has been presented in separate exhibitions as “chapters” and the ongoing series continues through today.

Keith Mayerson studied Semiotics and Studio Art at Brown University and received an MFA from the University of California, Irvine and is now Professor of Art and Chair of Painting Drawing, and Printmaking at the Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California. Mayerson’s work was prominently featured in the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art with a solo show My American Dream, the 2014 Whitney Biennial, and the Whitney Museum’s inaugural downtown show, America is Hard to See. His recent solo exhibitions include the Elaine de Kooning House Foundation, East Hampton (2019); Marlborough Gallery, New York (2019); and the Bridge, Bridgehampton (2019).

His work can be found in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Berkeley Art Museum, Berkeley, California; the Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio; the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive monograph of the entire My American Dream cosmology, including this exhibition. The publication includes newly commissioned essays by Ann Craven and Gary Panter, and an interview with the artist by Celeste Dupuy-Spencer.