Downtown Is A Construct
Massimo De Carlo is proud to announce that on Monday the 8h of February it will be presenting Downtown Is A Construct, a new exhibition by the American artist Nate Lowman.
Situated by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission as somewhere easterly of West, westerly of Broadway, northerly of Vesey, and of course, below Canal, the Tribeca district of downtown Manhattan lies in a zone previously established for 18th century farm and residential use before being developed for commercial enterprise in the following half-century. Edifices used to house industrial stores of thread, fabric, produce, spices, or wrapping paper were built of stone, with facades often covered in cast iron and affixed with metal window shutters to prevent the spread of fires. As industrial activity disappeared from the city in the 20th century, these huge buildings, with their high ceilings, tall windows and wide-open floor plans, were left empty.
Rediscovered in the 1970s by a generation of artists who took up residence in the then-desolate neighbourhood, the buildings were eventually marked for preservation by the city after lobbying from a committee of these residents. Within the West, East, North, South and South Extension Tribeca Historic Districts designated between 1991 and 2002 are buildings that retain many vestiges of the past, being governed by regulations that disallow alteration of their historic features. Many of the aging original residential artist “settlers” of the area still live in lofts bought or leased at rent-controlled rates in the 1970s and 80s at addresses that have since increased astronomically in real estate value, as the neighbourhood has developed into a chic, status-conscious area known for relatively safe and quiet streets, high-end amenities, and an exclusive population high in celebrities and the uber-wealthy.
The works in “Downtown Is A Construct,” Nate Lowman’s third solo exhibition at Massimo De Carlo in London, derive from one of the few sections of his Tribeca loft studio (a weathered civic landmark building at the furthest mid-eastern border of the East Tribeca Historic District) not in perpetual use for painting, cleaning, storage, or planning: the ceiling. Conveying exposed wires, pipes, and modern track lighting that overlaps the 19th century decorative tin ceiling tiles (another historic fireproofing measure and popular low- cost American design innovation that served as a fashionable alternative to the costly Victorian ornamental plaster ceilings of the time), the images are grainy and high contrast, rendered in black dots that look as if they had been printed rather than painted onto the white linen surfaces. Some works depict the ceiling at an illusionistic 1:1 ratio and many are large enough to activate a type of spatial perception more often associated with sculpture - or architecture - than contemporary painting.
Upon entering the first room of the exhibition the viewer is met by three paintings that each represent the ceiling of an unoccupied space in Worth Street. In the second room four large depict the ceiling of Nate Lowman’s studio in Franklin Street.
Although faithfully rendered with perfect, photographic (albeit low-resolution) execution, the images remain spectral and contingent. With their delicate, unprimed linen supports and painted dot technique that leaves the canvas as full of negative space as with paint, they resonate with the frequency of gaps. The rampant development that endlessly consumes and reconfigures Manhattan is stalled by historic preservation, resulting in pockets of untapped value in a city that compulsively maximizes profit across every inch of time and space. Anomalously, tendentiously halting the march of time and the redistribution of space along the lines of the highest bottom line, the negative spaces of Manhattan serve an alien purposelessness in this most purposeful of cities.