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Posts tagged Nate Young
Watch out for the Identity

Projecting Identity, Anderson Gallery Drake University

November 9 - December 14, 2012

Left: Marina Abramovic/Uly’s “Rest Energy” Right: ManYee Lam’s “Cocooning”

Review by Rachel

November 28, 2012

When I went to visit the Projecting Identity show at the Anderson, I was alone. Had the whole joint to myself and my leisure. It was a Sunday afternoon and I walked straight to the back, passing a handful of makeshift viewing rooms for each of the videos in the group show. The video behind the last curtain was titled Microcosm and was not looping. I found the remote, pushed play and watched from beginning to end.

The imagery was overwhelming. It was life, death, very big things and the very small. Digital bodies were morphing in and out, back and forth from flesh to bone. The music was some sorta dramatic film score set to a metronome of frantic typing.  From the point of view of God, you’re looking down on revolving chaos. A digital landscape collaged of scenes from the virtual role playing game, Second Life. It was like trying to see everything at once. 

Gary Hill’s “Wall Piece”

I left Microcosm and was engulfed by the stillness of Marina Abramovic/Uly’s Rest Energy. At first, I saw no movement. A man and woman were leaning away from each other, steadied by a bow and arrow. You can hear them breathing. Abramovic’s lover is aiming an arrow at her heart. The action breaks when they start to slowly release the tension being pulled on the bow and arrow. Then the video loops and again they fall back into position.

I moved slowly through each viewing station. You are either faced with a body or a collection of bodies. Behaviors include talking about cultural expectations, throwing oneself against a wall, primping in a public bathroom and trying really hard to make yourself vanish.  The intention is to consider identity. Question who you are you and what makes you that way. After being assaulted by a strobe light in the Gary Hill video, I laid on a pile of pillows in the ManYee Lam video installation.

Nate Young’s “Untouched”

It’s a cave in the middle of the show. Two videos are playing at once. Cocooning repeats faster than the Self-Combing Woman narrative. I recommend laying down on the pillows for awhile. Read the subtitles describing the lives and decisions these old Chinese ladies faced being “spinsters” in the “old world”.  It was the highlight of the show for me. You watch Lam build a cocoon around herself just like a silk worm would. The old ladies talk about how their choices set them free from the norm but still locked them in another restricting way of life. It made me think that we have to become specific eventually. Our specifics make up our identity.

Drake students and Lenore Metrick-Chen curated this show. They also wrote responses to the videos chosen which are provided to you in an excellent publication designed with invisible pages. I appreciated their insight after seeing the show. Projecting Identity closes Decemeber 14th. May you have your own dedicated Sunday afternoon at the Anderson before then.

A Year in FLUXX

Young Bloods, Fluxx

June 2012

Works by Chiavetta, Tabakovic, Watson, and 5AM.

Review by guest contributor Leah Kalmanson

June 14 2012

What is art? The philosophy of aesthetics has long tried to answer this question. Perhaps the most frequently discussed contemporary answer is the institutional theory, which explicitly rejects philosophical ambitions to find a definitive or comprehensive description of what counts as “art.” Rather, in its basic form, the institutional theory holds that almost anything can be art so long as members of an art scene—including artists, gallerists, critics, and art appreciators—can all give reasons for calling it art.

On the one hand, the institutional theory is liberating. Because there are no absolute criteria for what is or is not eligible to be art, artworks are freed from traditional constraints regarding form, media, display, and so forth. Yet, on the other hand, the institutional theory is somewhat cynical. It dismisses as naïve the attempt to ask what art “is” or “means” beyond a given social context. For example, no institutional theorist would seriously return to Plato’s notion of the eternal form of beauty, or to Leo Tolstoy’s idea that artworks form a quasi-spiritual link between the consciousness of the artist and that of the viewer.

With all this in mind, I’d like to offer some philosophically motivated reflections following the recent anniversary show at FLUXX Gallery in East Village. In many ways, I see this anniversary show, and the year’s worth of shows that preceded it, as the record of a gallerist looking for new, and non-institutional, answers to the question of art.


            Even a brief conversation with gallery owner Jordan Weber reveals his enthusiasm for existential questions, his openness to philosophical speculation, and his optimism over art’s potential to teach us something new about the human condition.

            Weber’s vision for the kind of art space he is trying to create has changed over the last year. Early on, he envisioned a collective of activist-artists united around the causes of environmentalism and anti-consumerism. Although these ethical and political motivations still guide Weber’s approach to running the gallery, they do not determine his choices of works to feature. Several FLUXX shows from the past year have foregrounded socio-political themes—for example, three shows have dealt with issues of critical race consciousness—but other shows have had no explicit political angle.

Works by Kelley, Pearson, Gardner, and Newman.

The recent anniversary exhibit speaks to the variety of media and styles that FLUXX has hosted in its first year, including photography, installations, sculpture, and abstract paintings. The anniversary show, hanging until the end of June, features eleven new pieces and several works acquired by the gallery from past shows:

·         Graphite drawing by Nate Young. This piece originally appeared in Young’s solo show in April 2012. In that installation, including sculpture and drawings, the artist reimagined the history of black culture in America as a people’s mythic journey of apotheosis. The drawing on display in the anniversary show is a conceptual map of the relations between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

·         Ink drawings by 5AM. In these drawings by a Los Angeles street artist, obsessively detailed humanoid figures seem to be unfolding while bulking up—like wobbly Transformers—against an urban backdrop. The images capture the frenetic undercurrents of everyday city scenes.

·         Installation by Emily Newman. Her wire sculpture of a common plastic chair hangs at an awkward angle from the ceiling, its shadow captured in overlapping charcoal drawings on the wall behind it. It brings to mind both the nostalgia of ephemerality and the eeriness of an object frozen in time and space, obtruding on us outside of its usual context.

·         Sculpture by Edward Kelly. A smooth, white, solid rectangle, punctuated by a single circle of neon light, is leaning against the wall atop two hand-carved marble wedges. The piece problematizes the relation between the unique and the mass-produced, or between the process and the product of the sculptor’s art.

·         Painting by Christopher Chiavetta. If Kelly’s work deals in some measure with the art of sculpting itself, Chiavetta’s painting deals with the properties and problems of paint. Its baroque detail suggests an epic scene—perhaps, an inferno—although it resists viewers’ attempts to read it as “representational.”

·         Sculptures by Ben Gardner. The multi-colored structures invoke elements of folk art—the patchwork of a hand-stitched quilt or the jumble of a junkyard sculpture. The standing pieces especially bring to mind a rural landscape, suggesting the monumental or even shrine-like stature of windmills and weathervanes.

Sculpture by Pearson

·         Sculptures by Jonathon Pearson. In a piece titled “Catharsis of Christ,” three uncomfortably pink Christ figures emerge, partly embedded in the wall or in their cement stands. The fleshy tones, and the bodily damage to the figures, emphasize humanness and vulnerability.

·         Paintings by Senid Tabakovic. A collection of small, tidy images seems perfectly in order, except for the three outliers in the bottom right corner. The repeated use of fake wood grain and of grids that resemble machine-woven fabric speaks to the problematic reduction of quality to homogeneity.

Painting by Free

·         Paintings by Molly Free. Free’s stylized figures make use of the expressive qualities of color and line. Both paintings recall the style of a graphic novel, inviting viewers to fill in the narrative.

·         Installation and paintings by Jordan Weber. Weber’s work reflects elements of pop art, exploiting the pervasiveness of the corporate logos, signs, and images that have become the iconography that defines the racial landscape in America today.

Works by Atherton, Renno, Young, and Kelley.

·         Photograph by Bob Renno. This humorous but provocative image—a nude woman sitting on the shoulders of a nude man, drizzling him in what looks like chocolate sauce—was acquired by the gallery after its international photography show in September 2011.

·         Photographs by Dennis Atherton. Atherton’s photos emphasize the ability of the camera to preserve passing moments, freeing them for the possibility of sustained reflection. In one, naked mannequins from a storefront stare back at the viewer; the other two capture moments from the ongoing public dialogue amongst street artists.

·         Photographs by Mike Watson. These photos by local artist Mike Watson show a series of houses in various stages of repair and disrepair. The images are evocative—of home, of decay—while not being overly sentimental.


Artwork by Jordan Weber

Although FLUXX features an eclectic mix of artists and art forms, Weber’s ethical and political commitments continue to shape his vision for the gallery and its role in the Des Moines art scene. For example, he and gallery co-owner Julia Frey have plans for community outreach programs in the future, potentially partnering with other local organizations to host free after-school art programs for local children and teens. They also have ideas for mobile or pop-up galleries that will bring creative spaces to communities. These projects reflect their shared conviction that art-making and art appreciation should be accessible to everyone, and that art can play a transformative role in people’s everyday lives.


            The institutional theory is not necessarily linked to consumerism, but it nonetheless provides a useful theoretical framework in which to understand today’s marriage of the artworld to market economics, and the resulting commodification of art. However this theoretical framework masks, I think, an unavoidably tense situation. Aesthetic appreciation—the valuing of an object or experience for its own sake—is in essence at odds with a consumerist culture that assigns all value a monetary measure. In other words, art is in conflict with itself when it becomes both art and commodity. FLUXX joins a robust and growing art scene in Des Moines, which, like any art scene, is the arena in which the internal tensions of art are displayed, discussed, and potentially transformed. FLUXX’s message, its political commitments, and its optimism for art’s ability to empower people and their communities, promise to make it an enthusiastic participant in the ongoing conversation on art in Des Moines.

Leah Kalmanson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religion at Drake University, where she teaches classes in aesthetics, continental philosophy, and East Asian religions.

Minneapolis artist Nate Young at Fluxx

Nate Young, How to Make a Slave/How to Make a God, Fluxx Gallery

April 6 - April 27, 2012

Nate Young's How to make a Slave/How to make a God, Fluxx April 2012

Review by Jon

April 11, 2012

The walk towards Nate Young’s show from the outside street had me looking past the vinyl lettering on the window at three suspended cardboard domes. The space within the gallery looked warm and inviting. Upon approaching one of the domes, I started to catch fragments of sound, unintelligible at first over the other sounds in the room. The remarkable thing about crossing the threshold and coming completely under a dome was how amplified the sound projected from a small speaker directly above my head became.

I was struck by the singularity of the experience, like being under an umbrella and how having three domes for people to stand under directed the flow of the crowd. It seemed some people were avoiding the framed pieces on the wall so that they wouldn’t impose upon the dome listener’s privacy. The domes were positioned right in front of nicely framed drawings. As I understand it, most of the drawings were vague representations of an imagined cosmology.

Nate Young's How to make a Slave/How to make a God, Fluxx April 2012

Looking at the drawn graphs was like looking at one of my 9th grade math equations that failed to compute. And while attempting to discern meaning from the drawings, I was being blasted from above with either a monologue or a hip hop track depending on which dome I happened to be under.  It was unsettling and resulted in a feeling of dislocation and isolation. I found myself unable to look intelligently at the drawings or listen with a discerning ear to what was coming from the dome above, and in addition to that I was experiencing the dichotomous feeling of being alone in a crowded gallery.

As an installation the show is a resounding success. Nate’s ideas and approach are invigorating in their nuance, and I like the way there are several levels of concept and meaning coming together in any given piece. This show definitely took me out of my comfort zone and activated my senses while I was in the gallery space.

In Young’s statement for the show he explains:

“Moving directly under the dome the sound is isolated and the story of Willie Lynch, an infamous vicious slave owner is clearly heard…”

“…It becomes apparent through the interaction with the installation that shifts take place in a way that one begins to understand the signifiers within it. What at first appears to be babble becomes coherent, and what looks scientific becomes convoluted. What looks tied together in all aspects only makes sense based on the viewer’s projection of the missing information into it. History reveals anachronisms, dysfunction reveals purpose and science reveals mystery.”

How to Make a Slave/How to Make a God will be on display until Friday, April 27th. See photos of the installation on opening night here.  

Fluxx is located at 333 East Grand Avenue #104 in the East Village. Catch the show Thursday and Friday afternoons from 3 to 6 or Saturday from 11 to 3.