An Idea Because They Ate It
September 15 – October 20, 2018
A woodland princess, a Pumpkin-headed spirit guide, a gargantuan creature drafted only in its contours,licking unseen wounds, a pale pink perspex shoe, possibly one lost by the princess, a chlorophyll canopy, a colour study: Joshua Nathanson’s paintings unfold with the keen interest of an enfant terrible who could care less for binding logic or “closure” as long as the action knocks you out enough to forget about the modernist infinite up there in T.J. Clarks’s top towers. His paintings crash-land into a place not unlike the Deadly Poppy Field from The Wizard of Oz, into which Dorothy falls half-dead just a hop and a skip away from Emerald City. Whatever pleasures of the poppy field we are denied in Dorothy’s awakening are here distilled post hoc; the paintings stay defiantly asleep in the poppies. If this sounds like I’m inviting death to the door dressed in the modern pathos of dreams and desire, think again: what’s at stake in the sleep/dream state is a refusal to stick to “received” or “accepted” common sense. What this means in terms of Painting, capital P—who knows. Too outrageous to claim that what’s happening in these works is an arrest of capital’s productive imperatives (because let’s face it, naps from the free market are as imaginary as fairies themselves) or that a wondrous painting’s liquid value could melt away the wicked West’s obsessions with productivity. Instead, relish in an image that acquiesces to the causal magic of “signs” or “signifiers,” and in doing so, rejects its fate as representation so as to embrace an even more defiant mode of discourse: fantasy.
In following the medium’s projective valence to a brightly coloured end, Nathanson’s idea-being-ate experiments with just how displaced a painting can still make you feel. Shifting to oil paints and sticks, these dislocations have to do with the weight and substance of paint—like the way a colour can weigh you down or dazzle your eyes, feel featherweight or flighty. Palettes consist of what appears almost too real. Colours that exhaust both in brightness and immediacy. Distended and floating forms. Just contours of characters, or their vapours, or something. A background caught in the act of metamorphosis. The acid blur of impressions. Tripping on formal reason, the paintings knock you out cold and carry you nowhere. And not just an ordinary “nowhere,” unlike the nowhere of Los Angeles, or hotel rooms, or paratactic summers spent in the countryside. Nathanson’s nowhere is in cahoots with the surreal realism of Dorothy’s Oz—an anarchic space for the “self” to hash out twinning inner narratives, like the fantasy of an emerald end-game against sleep’s seductive strength, or dreams versus verismo, or trippy meaningmaking to that increasingly iffy notion, “truth.”
Sabrina Tarasoff is a Finnish Writer Based in LA.
Joshua Nathanson (b. 1976, Washington, D.C., lives and works in Los Angeles, CA) received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York, NY and his MFA from Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA. He has held solo exhibitions at the Yuz Museum, Shanghai, China; Downs and Ross, New York, NY; Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy; Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan and at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, CA.
His work has also been included in exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK; Yokohama Museum, Yokohama, Japan; ARNDT, Singapore; and 356 S. Mission, Los Angeles, CA.