L&M Arts is pleased to present Labyrinth, an exhibition of new sculpture by New York-based artist Nick van Woert. Fascinated with the convergence of the natural world and human intervention, this exhibition examines the implications of the increasingly prevalent usage of synthetics as surrogates for raw materials. Challenging historical perceptions of elements and their properties, his work establishes a link between seemingly antiquated notions of construction, industrialism, and sustainability amidst shifting societal values and consumer demands.
The artist has assembled six hanging wall sculptures in the West Gallery, modeled to resemble the mappae mundi of medieval society. Arranged as neat, seemingly ordered compositions, each spherical map holds a collection of intentionally crude bronze casts of primitive tools such as arrowheads and rudimentary hammers. The rough edges of these objects bleed into blurred, asymmetrical surfaces - insinuating that the tools have been well worn and useful. Noticeably contrasting, the pristine placement of the small, simple tools on the globe-shaped background recalls the fixation of Enlightenment-era explorers who glorified human technological advancements through the rabid plundering and ceremonious display of common objects from far away lands.
In Garden of Forking Paths (2013, pictured above), van Woert has taken a cue from the complex mappae mundi (that depicted not only geographic details of bodies of land and water, but also sacred texts, city plans, navigational charts, historical narratives, lists of natural resources, etc.) to devise his own register of significant items and personal histories. This large, sculptural lexicon is the sum of the artist's influences and ideologies. It includes casts of relevant books, childhood toys, peace pipes, and other meaningful objects that, together, helped to amass his character.
On display in the East Gallery is Course of Empire (2013). It consists of two hundred plexiglass boxes whose transparent casings reveal a hodgepodge of contemporary provisions. For his largest sculpture of this kind to date, he has erected a site-specific network of AstroTurf, garden hoses, asphalt shingles, cat litter, aquarium rocks, dirt, ketchup, junk mail, dog toys, marzipan, and T-shirts (to name just a few). Isolating humanity's contributions to the material world, van Woert mirrors a topography heavily informed by the colors and conditions of these man-made materials. He notes that we often overlook the prevalence of these items in our everyday life and built environments, choosing instead to restrict the definition of scenery to the woods, sea, and mountainous backdrops that have long been the acceptable subjects of landscape painting. Course of Empire de-purposes and re-contextualizes its' contents, suggesting that a picturesque structure can be built using plastics or other non-traditional elements. In doing so, van Woert asks that we acknowledge and appreciate the tremendous visual influence that materials put forth by human invention have had on our surroundings.
van Woert's sculptures are ammunition for a material revolution that rebels against the dividing qualifiers of 'fake' and 'authentic'. Selected for individual traits, rather than an ability to replicate the favored materials of antiquity, van Woert engages the inherent aesthetics, palettes, and textures of each material he chooses. By promoting a delineated hierarchy of materials, his work challenges us to become increasingly aware of the artificial concoctions that populate our contemporary habitat. Considering them to be as significant as organic elements, his work reveals an altered and expanded periodic table that more accurately represents the components to our material world.
Nick van Woert was born in Reno, Nevada and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.