Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Review: Everybody Ever

Everybody Ever
new works by Nathaniel Russell
at Big Car (Fountain Square)

I didn't know what to expect when going to see the latest show at Big Car (Fountain Square) this weekend. I have some friends who are fans of Nat's work so I was a bit intrigued to see what they were talking about, as I don't think I was familiar with his work before this. Walking into the gallery you are first confronted by 4 large scale (6 plus feet tall), painted plywood figures, roughly sawn and painted in a loose weathered finish. These images, as with all the images in the show have a naive/outsider quality about them as if pulled from doodles in a sketchbook. The facing wall was lined with a number of small, framed, works on paper most of which are accompanied with text that adds a degree of wit into the works. While the connecting wall at the far end of the gallery has been roughly painted with a wall size mural (seen above).

While trying to write about this show I find it difficult to find the right words, as this type of art is not usually the type of art I gravitate towards. While there are hints of artists like Barry McGee, Marcel Dzama, Martin Maloney, etc. there is an aspect of this work that seems too familiar. This trend of sketchy naive drawing is a fastly spreading wildfire but despite all this I still find myself drawn to his large plywood cut outs. There is something about the presense they have. Almost creepy. And his prints have a wonderful clean simplicity. This is not an art for all, but I can't help but think that there is something going on with the work. And while much of the craftsmanship, or lack there of, leaves one to want something better; you are once again faced with the simpleness of the means. Is craftsmanship even an issue to these works? Would they feel the same if they were perfectly crafted? Part of me tends to not think so.

Strangely enough I think this may be the strongest installation I have personally seen in this space at Big Car. I think one of the strong points of this show is its use of the space, keeping the show edited to a decent number of works for the amount of exhibition space available, often a problem in other shows I see around town. I think this show is a good example of how seeing a number of works by the same artist at one time can give you a better understanding of how that artist sees and/or approaches their artwork. Though I don't think I would consider myself a fan of the work yet, I think it is a well put together show and worth a look. Perhaps someone can explain to me why I keep looking at the big pink figure...

[Reviews coming for Galerie Penumbra, Ruschman, Big Car North, my takes on Herron and the Art Center shows]

10 Responses to “Review: Everybody Ever”

Christopher said...
March 7, 2006 at 9:40 AM

Sounds very 'Bay Area'. I think I'm going to dig it.

Anonymous said...
March 7, 2006 at 12:20 PM

I think Chris Johanson is the closer approximation. Bay Area style= instant acceptance.

Scott said...
March 7, 2006 at 1:55 PM

Chris Johanson, totally slipped my mind. Good call.

Jim said...
March 9, 2006 at 3:28 PM

Thanks for the review and the great pictures.

FYI: Nat, who grew up here, lives in Oakland now.
Also, Big Car is open Friday night 7 p.m. until whenever if anyone would like to see the show. The gallery's normal hours are Fridays 5-7 p.m. and Saturdays 1-3 p.m.

Anonymous said...
March 11, 2006 at 8:05 PM

Are you serious? Big Car is only open for 4 hours per week? What a joke.

Scott said...
March 12, 2006 at 12:12 AM

The major set back for artist run spaces and alternative spaces is that there are usually no funds to run them daily. While most of these spaces never make a profit from running their spaces, they continue to do so as they can. Most the spaces I know that run this was (short business hours, etc.) also advertise opening by appointment. While this may not be the most convienent way to go and look at an exhibition, at times it is the only way to do so. It is this reason that first friday events and openings are SO important to running these venues. 95% of your shows attendance will show up on the night of the opening. For better or for worse, the health of the art scene depends on some of these alternative spaces, despite their short open door times. Would I like to see galleries open more often and longer, sure would but with the sprawl of all our galleries currently this may be a thing we need to get used to...

Jim said...
March 14, 2006 at 12:11 PM

Thanks for the explanation Scott.

To the anonymous moron: Actually, Big Car -- an all-volunteer gallery -- is often open a lot more than four hours a week because of all of the events we have. In April, we are open the whole evening on April 3, April 7 and April 30... plus our normal hours. The other thing is, as an upstairs space, few people just happen to stroll thru the Murphy Art Center. Downstairs on street level, Penumbra, a for-profit gallery, is open 11 hours a week to our 4. Not a huge difference.

Jim said...
March 14, 2006 at 12:13 PM

And, of course, we can allow people into the the gallery by appointment. I'm curious if the anonymous poster, so quick to slam something, has ever tried starting and operating his or her own gallery.

Nathaniel Russell said...
March 14, 2006 at 10:52 PM

thanks for reviewing my show. it seems like you kept an open mind and i appreciate the comments.
i guess what i was trying to do was capture the sort of spontaneity that excites me about quick drawing and bold mark making. but in wood and big paint. i made everything in the show in three days, on-site, but thought about my imagery quite a bit before i made it. i see this as a really personal collection, really. like little tapes that you make for yourself, rough, unpolished, with a nugget of beauty or joy or sadness or loveliness buried underneath. i'll be the first to say that i have a long way to go, but i'm enjoying figuring it out and walking the walk.
all the figures are from sketchbook drawings that i did with a friend over a breakfast a few days before i got to indianapolis. all the framed drawings are text from personal notes, favorite quotes, and dream ramblings. they all mean something distinct and mysterious to me, and i guess i could explain each one if anyone asked, but that would be selfish, i suppose. the mural is kind of anti-hippy/pro-hippy. i think it's funny and sad, most of the things i find beautiful are funny and sad. it could be better. but it also could not be. i've been trying to explain this show to my mom, and the closest i can come is that i see it as a sort of performance. i remember seeing musicians i really loved play in some dive bar in ohio, playing songs i loved and songs i'd never heard and would never hear again. it's different than the record. i think this is bonus b-side rarity in the grand scheme, and those are the records i love the most.

i'm really grateful to big car for allowing me to make all these things in their space. thanks.

also, yeah, i get the barry mcgee/chris johansen references. it's honestly something i struggle with sometimes. i mean, i dreamed of margaret kilgallen's paintings before i saw them, you know? i try to draw and make things that are honest and quick, and second-guessing is always a problem. i figure it will work itself out in the end. i'm not naive, i don't believe the things i make are. there are differnt kinds of craft, there are different forms of intent. there is bad drawing and good drawing. personally, i really try to rid my mind of anything other than what i'm doing while i'm doing it. the next thing will be better, the next thing will be different, i'll be 80 one day and by then i hope to know what i'm doing. until then, it's just things we make.

also again, that mystery walker is magic, man.

also again, if you'd like to comment or send me biting remarks just send them to nat at thisishowwedo.com.

Scott said...
March 15, 2006 at 2:27 AM

Thanks for your further insights to your work Nat. Your remarks are helpful to me to better understand where you are coming from. And please, don't take my use of the word naive as an insult. I use this word more as a descriptor of a style that is quite common these days as well as valid. I look forward to seeing your work again when your 80, hehe. Thanks for your willingness to respond to my review. It is through this type of dialogue that we all may learn more about each other.

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