Consider the various uses of “Joe”
in American idioms: Average Joe, G.I. Joe, Joe Blow, Cup of Joe. It is
quintessentially American, used to characterize someone or something normal,
expected, and widely understood. Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Joe Nanashe
explores this notion and his personal experience of it in several video and
performance works. A number of his videos consist of spliced film clips wherein
the name “Joe” is uttered by different American movie characters. In Joe…OH JOE!
various female film characters state the name “Joe” in ascending states of
excitement, beginning in conversation and ending in throes of ecstasy.
Banal words and objects fascinate
Nanashe. His work Bleed Out
something else familiar and American: the McDonald’s ketchup packet, a
ubiquitous part of the the country’s cultural landscape. Singled out and placed
against white, the ketchup packet is absurdly elevated. In Monument
and Rockets Red Glare
, red, white, and blue
popsicles are again placed against a bold white background and photographed in
sensuous detail, every frozen granule visible. The images are audacious but
inviting. Popsicles—the red, white, and blue kind in particular—are vestiges of
American childhood, a symbol of summer and celebration for several generations.
When examined closer, and alongside his other works, the irony of these
perfectly formed candies begins to show. Here, notions of patriotism and pride
are expressed through water, sugar, and dye–fleeting “monuments” to rather
lofty values. Nanashe understands the basic fondness and nostalgia we have for
he also recognizes the absurd commercialization and dilution of these values in
commonplace objects and words. He presents us with both.
In his newest works, unveiled
this week by Victori
, Nanashe continues his photographic dialogue with food
items, but this time seeking inspiration elsewhere— the depictions of food in
traditional Dutch still life paintings. Nanashe focuses on one food in
particular: cheese. By shooting extreme close-ups of a variety of cheeses—the
works featured here both depict Gouda—he captures cross sections of the
unsuspecting dairy product, resulting in textural tableaux that resemble
abstract paintings, once again turning ubiquitous subject matter into artwork
that is rich and layered.