Weeping Atlas Cedar
Massimo De Carlo gallery is proud to present Weeping Atlas Cedar: the first exhibition by American artist Nate Lowman in the gallery’s new Mayfair outpost.
The show’s title refers to a species of tree with a strange, elegiac appearance, featuring long, drooping branches that reach downward to make it look both graceful and awkward. Lowman’s exhibition includes several renderings of trees, constructed from canvas stretched on wood supports and based on drawings by the artist.
There is a misshapen monochromatic tree that suggests a pose of genuflection similar to that of the Weeping Atlas, and there are echoes of the iconic automotive air freshener tree that Lowman has sampled in a previous series of artworks. However, rather than precisely duplicate cultural imagery as he has done in the past, here Lowman has chosen to depict shapes drawn by his own hand, and to mix iconography in a way that weakens the singularity of individual images, often resulting in hybrid, less legible forms.
This exhibition is a departure from Lowman’s earlier work in its reliance on an inner logic within his shapes’ own reiterations and breakdowns, a process that would have been less visible in his previous works that make use of weightier American cultural references. Lowman’s longtime use of found images is still present, but recently such materials have found their way into his work in more subtle, personal ways.
For instance, some of the shaped canvases are printed with inkjet images but are treated with drips of paint and scuff marks. The familiar air freshener tree is present, yet it bears a wide hole in its side, a replica of the void of the “bite” in the Apple logo. The leaf of the Apple appears here as well, multiplied into a varicolored throng of mottled, flecked, glossy, and matte foliage. There are other cartoonish variations on the tree shape, ranging from a bouncy rounded form to a gently traced iteration that looks like a melted version of the original, to the warped topiary seemingly modelled on the Weeping Atlas of the show title.
On the walls of the gallery, these works could read as a new development in Lowman’s signature “cut and paste” aesthetic, resulting in a quite literal collage like effect when installed, with the frame of the canvas and its contents appearing roughly equal in proportion. There are finer outlines in black or white paint on some of the canvases, rendering sketchy ornamental patterns that form flower and tree shapes similar to those of the larger canvases on the wall. The repetitions seem like precursors or afterthoughts, ghosts of the more resolved forms that are their support.
This contrast between the outline of the canvases and the smaller forms contained within them intimates a porousness between sculpture and painting, figure and landscape.
Weeping Atlas Cedar is a landscaping plant, more often seen in gardens than nature, and many of Lowman’s shapes reference items that might be found in a garden: flowers, leaves, trees. Cut out and placed on the wall, the series cultivates an interiority that could find its parallel in a controlled patch of nature with its own human-scale logic, temporarily closed off from but inevitably destined to return to wilder open spaces.