Private view: Wednesday 2 October, 6–8 PM
"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.’1
This exhibition features a new series of paintings, begun in 2018, based on crime scene photos of the mass shooting that took place on October 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nevada, where a gunman attacked civilians attending the Route 91 Harvest country music festival, resulting in fifty-nine deaths. Following an investigation, which yielded no identifiable motive, the police released photos of the Mandalay Bay hotel room and surrounding area where the gunman carried out his attack. Drawn to the perfunctory quality of the photographs, as much as to their uneasy sense of timelessness and placelessness, Lowman, who was born in Las Vegas, began translating the images, one by one, into paintings, in part as an attempt to grapple with the unanswerable questions posed by the shooting. The resultant works probe the tensions between the everyday and the extreme, presence and absence, and, more broadly, violence and representation.
Lowman’s formally and conceptually layered approach to the image is conveyed in paintings such as Picture 1 (2019), which shows a surreal detail of a hallway door—that was crudely defended by the gunman to prevent access from the stairwell to his hotel room on the thirty-second floor—shrouded in subtly gradated shadow rendered with overlaid, almost calligraphic black markings akin to those from a blurred Xerox. A simultaneous sense of immediacy and distance is further examined in works such as Picture 27 (2019), which appears at first glance as a blown-out abstraction that, in actuality, references a photo of pulverised bullet residue on fuel tanks at the adjacent McCarran International Airport. Further works in the exhibition lay bare the unsettling details around the perpetrator’s hotel room, such as Picture 4 (2018), which is based on a photograph of the hallway leading to the gunman’s room, featuring a food service cart covered in a white tablecloth, on which a camera was placed under an overturned dinner plate to monitor human activity. By focusing on this image and rendering its details, such as the hotel’s bespeckled walls, its garish carpeting, and the white tablecloth—a blank section of canvas where the artist applied almost no paint to suggest the fabric’s soft folds—Lowman depicts a disquietingly mundane scene that simultaneously reveals and masks its context, raising questions about the communicability of certain images, while insisting on their visibility.
Nate Lowman’s (b. 1979) work was the subject of a solo exhibition at Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, in 2018. Other recent solo presentations at public institutions include those at the Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2017); FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, France (2016); Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2015); Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2012); Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2009); and Midway Contemporary Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2006).
The artist’s work has also been featured in significant group exhibitions including Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2015); Second Chances, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2015); Themes & Variations: The Empire of Light, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice (2014); Three Blind Mice, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgium (2014); To Be With Art Is All We Ask, Astrup Fearnley Museet for Moderne Kunst, Oslo (2012); George Herms: Xenophilia (Love of the Unknown), Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2011); The Luminous Interval: The D. Daskalopoulos Collection, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain (2011); The Last Newspaper, New Museum, New York (2010); Fresh Hell, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2010); Off the Wall: Part 1 – Thirty Performative Actions, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010); and Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010).
Work by Lowman is held in numerous public collections including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Marciano Art Foundation, Los Angeles; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Lowman lives and works in New York.
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1David Rimanelli, ‘Nate Lowman: The Brant Foundation Art Study Center’, Artforum (May 2013), p. 332
Image: Nate Lowman, Picture 19, 2019