Lombard Freid Projects is pleased to open their 2011 fall season with Snobs Behind Ketchup, Indonesian artist Eko Nugroho’s premiere solo exhibition in New York City. A native of Yogyakarta, self-made artist Nugroho works in a diverse range of media including paintings, embroidery, sculpture, site-specific murals, shadow puppets and video projections. He finds inspiration in his homeland, with images and installations all reflecting Indonesia’s politically charged environment and artistic history. Surreal characters that fuse human, machine, animal and plant populate his uncanny and darkly humorous milieus.
Snobs Behind Ketchup will transform the gallery into a unique but relatable environment with Nugroho’s vibrant, large-scale portraits made with paint, embroidery and sculpture. The artwork hangs directly on a mural hand painted by Nugroho producing an even more dynamic viewing experience. Each piece tells a story without preaching an overt message. Instead he uses an alternative universe with a recurring cast of masked alien punks to place his absurd and biting catch phrases into a less threatening environment then our own reality. His idioms subtly articulate the dysfunctions of contemporary Indonesian society, as well as the tribulations of the world at
large. Nugroho leaves the interpolation of his artwork open to the viewer, allowing their many meanings to be peeled back as individuals feel appropriate. Each piece is as complex and ambiguous as reality. Adeline Ooi, co founder and director of Rogue Art in Kuala Lumpur, says of Nugroho’s protagonists; “The lone figure, whose face is concealed by masks, helmet, or machine parts, never reveals his true self. His many manifestations represent the players involved in the unfolding of [Eko’s] narrative. He is the silent messenger and the narrator; he is you, me, we, Everyman and the Other all at once.”
These metamorphic figures and their surroundings speak to a range of psychological states in dealing with the increasingly negative effects of the world’s industrialization and the personal challenges in a reforming society of which they are starkly disconnected despite their lively depiction. The artwork simultaneously speaks of hope and violence, generating a compelling dialogue between the artwork and the viewer.
A combined knowledge of high art and underground culture is evident in Nugroho’s use of text and material, both of which play an important role in his work. With English as a second language the chosen words become abstracted and uncanny, closer to poetry and shapes than prose. Eko has placed most of the text in this exhibition on t-shirts worn by his characters, accentuating the graphic qualities of the letters. Concurrently, the sartorial code of each figure speaks for different social situations.
Nugroho has a similar dichotomy with materials, referencing both traditional Indonesian embroidery and that of the badges worn by gangs and government officials in Yogyakarta to promote their respective affiliations. The combination of cultures and materials is perpetually being taken to the next level, making him one of the most prominent Indonesian artists working today. His work has come to international attention in the past several years with recent exhibitions and residencies including; Transfiguration & Contemporary Mythologies, Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton, 2011 France; 10th Lyon Biennale, France; Beyond the Dutch, Centraal Museum, Netherlands; SAM Art Projects, Villa Raffet, Pairs France; ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany
Daging Tumbuh Pop-Up Store The back gallery will be transformed into a Daging Tumbuh pop-up store for the duration of Snobs Behind Ketchup. The Daging Tumbuh (or the diseased tumor) Comic Collective was founded by Eko Nugroho in 2000 as a community of Indonesian artists collaborating to produce limited edition works such as figurines, t-shirts, notebooks and patches. The collective also publishes the Daging Tumbuh book project where photocopying is the printing method of choice in order to make intellectual property available to a wider majority of people.
Lombard Freid Projects will also host the American launch of Eko(Space)Nugroho, a limited edition book by the artist.