Nate Lowman: October 1, 2017
"When painting images, I am fighting against amnesia." —Nate Lowman
David Zwirner is pleased to present new paintings by Nate Lowman at its London location, marking the gallery’s first exhibition of the American artist’s work since announcing representation this spring.
Lowman has become known for deftly mining images culled from art history, the news, and popular media, transforming visual signifiers from these distinct sources into a diverse body of paintings, sculptures, and installations. Since the early 2000s, the artist has continually pushed the boundaries of his multimedia approach with works that are at turns political, humorous, and poetic. Through his art—which dynamically explores themes of representation, celebrity, obsession, and violence—Lowman stages an encounter with commonplace, universally recognisable motifs, questioning and revisiting their intended meanings while creating new narratives in the process. Having amassed a visual archive of source material, Lowman often processes the significance of images over time, typically returning to a picture on several occasions before making it the subject of one of his multivalent works. ‘The artist’s sociological impulse’, as art critic David Rimanelli notes, ‘[is] to research and catalogue a world that is, for all its immediacy, more customarily, and more comfortably, seen at a distance.’
Image: Nate Lowman, Picture 19, 2019
The gallery’s first exhibition of work by Nate Lowman features a new series of paintings based on police photos from the mass shooting that took place on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Lowman re-creates photos of the Mandalay Bay hotel room and surrounding area where the gunman carried out the attack—images that were released to the public by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department with their preliminary report, and that can still be found online.
Painted meticulously by hand to render the details of the crime scene photographs, the surfaces of these paintings are overlaid with the blur of a Xerox copy—a rash of pigmentation the artist has referred to as “noise”—and flares of color or blankness that serve to articulate lighting and furnishings. The works probe disturbing tensions in scenes that reach us as crude snapshots translated into the medium of painting; as such, they waver between the banal and the extreme, presence and absence, proximity and remove. Through the artist’s exercise in retrieval and re-creation, source imagery is questioned and accumulates new narratives.
“When I paint an image from a photo, whatever it is—whether it’s obscure or recognizable—” Lowman explains to Heidi Zuckerman, who curated his recent solo exhibition at Aspen Art Museum, “the translation of going from photograph to painting is just as important as why I’m interested in the image. What’s the photo about? What’s the context? How has it changed? In that translation, lots of things happen: the rendering, the exchange of color, light, and all these things in the media. When it lands in the realm of painting, it can’t ever leave that. It takes it somewhere else.”
At a time when rampant news cycles scroll through successive violent episodes, Lowman is compelled to counteract the immediate distance this creates. “That’s the thing about the news, the quality Lowman captures,” Lewis writes, “It pretends to be happening, right now, as we speak; it’s always “breaking,” as they say… But it never quite has the hold it wants on a perpetual present, first because the events it documents are always in the past—even if the dateline is only yesterday or the day before—and, more importantly, because it carries over into the future, becoming lodged obscurely in our lives from the day they break, dwindling even as they refuse to disappear, like snow angels left behind, melting slowly after the catastrophe… [Lowman has] mentioned wanting to make an anti-amnesia machine.”