Gallery 16 is pleased to present Peace Jazz by Indianapolis-based artist Nathaniel Russell in his first exhibition with the gallery. Last year The New York Times spotlighted Russell’s fake fliers, featuring thought-provoking and absurdly hilarious ads from Fliers: 20 Small Posters with Big Thoughts. His well-known graphic RESIST FEAR/ASSIST LOVE was created in response to our country’s unsettling times, intending to inspire kindness. Staying true to his penchant for the equity of printmaking, the RESIST design is available to anyone who wants it, with the condition that it is never sold or used for personal profit—it is only to be shared.
Known for integrating words with line drawings, Russell continues his exploration on themes of hope and human connection using play and poetry to communicate his message. Ten large paintings on panel, in addition to a suite of over 50 of the artist’s “fake fliers” mounted to panel, as well as an installation featuring smaller wooden sculptures, are all elements to be on view during the exhibition. In offering a selection of work in different sizes and prices, Russell underscores his passion for cultivating community through art.
Often using humor as an entry point, Russell provokes viewers to consider their place in the universe. His clever words and bold graphics illuminate sad truths of contemporary culture, as well as empowering values. These themes of hope, reflection and transcendence take on a particular significance against a contemporary backdrop of cultural disconnection and distraction. The artist expands on this sentiment in a new series of paintings that exude the same harmony without the use of text, rather through expressive forms. This collection of large-scale paintings on panel—featuring naturalistic forms, cut and rejoined much like a jigsaw puzzle—are suggestive of objects coming together through abstract compositions and formations. Large color blocks and lines sweeping off the frame elude to a raised hand, or a simple symmetrical shape topped with a white sphere implies a dandelion, are examples of this body of work.
Nathaniel Russell explains, "I want to create work that is sincere, hopeful and optimistic. I hope that when someone walks away, that they have learned something about another person—therefore about themselves."
Additionally, the artist presents an installation featuring his fake books series, smaller woodcut sculptures, as well as a 38-foot wall with over 50 fake fliers mounted to panel. While his intent is for the viewer to find meaning in community and the interconnectedness of all beings, the artist engages us in lightness with sculptures of books never published, flyers for events that don’t exist, and a few pieces that are small enough to fit in your hand. Peace Jazz is the culmination of the diverse modes of communication in Russell’s practice, each piece a tangible representation of the artist’s ethos.
About the artist: Nathaniel Russell was born and raised in Indiana. After college, he spent several years in the San Francisco Bay Area making posters, record covers, and woodcuts. He returned to his home city of Indianapolis and now spends his time creating drawings, fake fliers, bad sculptures, wood shapes, and music. The artist exhibits regularly throughout the world in both traditional galleries and informal spaces, usually surrounded by an ever-growing community of like-minded folk. He frequently returns to his second home of California to collaborate with friends on projects as varied as murals, print workshops, and backyard musical performances.