Austin Art Review: Eric Gibbons and Nathan Green, Lasers in the Jungle

by phil on Monday Sep 3, 2007 4:48 PM
art criticism

September 1 - October 6, 2007
Art Palace
2109 Cesar Chavez
Austin, TX 78702
Link to Eric Gibbons
Link to Nathan Green
Rating: 8.2

A one-line summary of Lasers is "a pair of monomaniacs." Most of Eric's paintings are about Paul Simon. And most of Nathan's are florescent slabs of thin rectangular orgies.

An uncharitable version of monomania is OCD, and a charitable interpretation is about focus. I'd say the two artists are on the more charitable side, with Eric (the more experienced of the two) especially showing the signs of a maturity evolved from getting an ever-increasingly clear understanding of Paul Simon. Eric said he listened to Paul Simon all of this past year.

Think what you will of Paul Simon (kitsch, silly, whimsical, or genius), there is something to be said about listening to a song a hundred times and finding the secrets of it that even the creators did not intend. To me, that is one of the great beauties of art. It's that the work is sublime even to the artist himself. Coincidences and connections that the artist never intended live on well after the short handful of hours it took to concoct the piece.

It's easy to get lost in Eric's work, as you see more and more layers over time. Maybe it's an iridescent ghost in the corner or noticing the subtle (or not-so-subtle) references to Renaissance Christian forms. Things are presented slightly, such that grasping the paintings takes some time. So at minute one you notice color, at minute two you notice that Paul Simon's forms are disfigured, and at minute three you comprehend the sadness of it all. A good stare-worthy piece sinks in different ideas upon further inspection. A classic stare-worthy piece sinks in forever, and we'll never know about status of Eric or Nathan's pieces until forever happens.

Name to-be-filled-in later by Eric Gibbons, $???? 2007

Nathan's artwork reminds me a lot of my own. Here's an example of one of mine. Someone once told me, "Phil, you use a lot of bright colors, you must be happy." While as both Nathan and Eric use bright, dangerous colors, Eric shores them up with the sand of sad grays and off-whites; Nathan's the happier of the two, and his work shows.

Name to-be-filled-in later by Nathan Green, $???? 2007

Pieces can have many different aspects that speak to you: the colors say one thing, the shape says another, the topic another and so on. Eric's works are an ensemble of each aspect having something different to say. The depth of Nathan's work, on the other hand, comes about by intersecting different stories. I imagine a pair of graffiti artists taking turns working on the same pieces. Ultimately, Nathan shows a mastery of dangerous colors, which is no small feat—I've seen many examples of amateur attempts to hawk bright pieces at street faires.

What is the relation between the two artists? According to them, they're friends, and they have collaborated on a show or two together, at least one of which involved a cross-country trip to West Oakland (no doubt in or near Emeryville, the up-and-coming hip part of the SF Bay Area). I didn't spend enough time to see more similarities between the two than that they like to play with bright colors. However, I had this funny serendipity googling the word Fauvism; if Eric and Nathan are binary stars, then this is the midpoint:

Henri Matisse, Portrait of Madame Matisse (The green line), 1905

There is something unfortunately simple and childish about Eric and Nathan's pieces, which is probably why the pieces don't command the serious dollars that something exhibited in downtown Austin might fetch. However, these pieces are much more personal and more about the future of art. I see in these pieces and in the Mission School the budding of a cohesive art movement around regressed sentimentality, childishness, otaku, and nostalgia.

And for my parting shot, I'd like to apologize to the people who I accidentally elbowed into at Art Palace. The space is incredibly small for receptions, and makes you feel like you're stepping on the pieces. Kudos, though, for creating merch in the form of posters and booklets, a way for plebes like me to support the arts.

Images from exhibit website and wikipedia

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