The Brant Foundation is pleased to announce I Wanted to be an Artist but all I got was this Lousy Career, an exhibition of works by Nate Lowman. The exhibition will feature recent and new work including paintings, collage and sculpture and continues through March 2013.
Dusted with mythological fear, loathing, and spiritual desertification, Nate Lowman’s work cuts up and reassembles the movies, the street, history, and the news. From a bank teller window shot through with bullets, to black crucifixes modeled on New York City tow truck equipment, to blonde, spectral Marilyn, scarred and bloodied by de Kooning’s violent brushstrokes, Lowman gravitates toward crimes, absurdities, slip-ups, tragedies, travesties, laughing stocks, write-offs, and disasters. “People treat images the same way that they treat vacation,” he says. “I’m trying not to be a tourist all the time – or at least not concerning the interpretation of information.”
Functioning like “membranes” – as Sherrie Levine once described her own works made from appropriated images – “permeable from both sides so there is an easy flow between the past and the future, between my history and yours,”* Lowman’s work weaves public history with personal memory, with the result that we feel a strange familiarity in looking over his bikini postcards, magazine clippings, bumper stickers, bullethole decals, car air freshener trees, and smiley faces, as if being reminded of something we already know.
Spread in alkyd dots across a canvas, torn from a tabloid, found on the sidewalk, pasted to the fridge, buried in a shoebox: in Lowman’s artistic system, available images and the messages they contain are reprogrammed as expressive tools and keyed into art history. His technique involves themes and indexes – chairs, people pointing at or holding things, swiss cheese – he has a taste for the derelict – battered and broken doors from the refuse heap, flattened aluminum cans, chewing gum, rusted gas pumps like those at abandoned gas stations, passed at high speed on obsolescent highways – and he mingles these souvenirs of the recently bygone with signs that the end is near – ripe crops covered in snow, x-rayed truckfuls of human traffic, flooded suburbs, a smiling ice cream cone announcing I’ll Be Dead Soon.
In the room-size installation Four Seasons (2009-2012) – the baroque theme also visited by Cy Twombly, Richard Prince, and Gerhard Richter – each season takes on the qualities of a verb rather than a noun. Wintering, Springing, Summering, and Falling: Jamie Foxx wields his image-damaging Swastika boogie board in Hawaii; snow falls at Ski Dubai, the winter resort built into a shopping mall in the United Arab Emirates; a man drops from the WTC’s crumbling North tower; Tonya Harding stumbles on the Olympic ice; Jenna Bush wipes out drunk on the pages of the National Enquirer; workers in Cancun picket for fair wages, throwing a wrench in spring break.
With guilt, innocence, and meanings always in flux, Lowman prefers to focus on the language of images themselves, and how to treat them like the living things they are. The parade of criminals and victims circulated in the Associated Press photos – OJ Simpson, John Walker Lindh, Oliver North, Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Brown Simpson, Amadou Diallo – are inevitably shifting, and to watch them rise and fall, like tracking a storm, or watching paint dry, is to hope for the end to come so that you can be here to see it.
Also on view in The Brant Foundation Art Study Center library will be a selection of chairs and artworks from Mr. Brant and Lowman’s personal collections. Featuring artists Andrew Kuo, Josh Smith, Dash Snow, Leo Fitzpatrick, Joe Bradley, Paul McCarthy, Ray Johnson, Lizzi Bougatsos, Dan Colen and Hanna Liden among others.