Thursday, June 23, 2011

h8ball mrlam(e)

Let's consider the prevailing barbarity of much contemporary art production, the primitive accumulation accomplished through crude manners and Richard Prince worship that marks the current exhibition of Nate Lowman.

The primary lesson of John Milius’ libertarian cinematic tract, Conan the Barbarian, was its paranoid misunderstanding of the will-to-power as the conquering vengeance of the oedipal slave, that is the will-to-power recast as the master-slave dialectic… The unshackling will to self that consolidates its lordly power through the shackling of others via the secret of steel, i.e. the patrilineal sword, the phallic signifier 'willfuly' manifested as steel. As so often is quoted in a drunken night among fraternal buds, Conan’s self-effectuating answer to the question ‘what is best in life’, he replies with a Serra-esque list of verbs—“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women. “


After years spent questing the shallowest forays of trash culture, the Lowman returns with his bounty in tow. A procession of alienated labor (those college grads paying off debt…) and defeated celebrities--from Joan Rivers to de Kooning's Marilyn--like the slaves from conquests abroad brought whipped and shackled into the glorious metropolitan salons of the 21st century further embellishes the signalling of a new lord returned to rule us all. The human spoils of Lowman's bounty fills not one but two of Manhattan’s largest galleries in its self-proclaimed ‘trash landing’. Sure, thanks to the reifying power of contemporary artworks, the lamentations are put on mute—perhaps for Gavin's sake as I'm certain Maccarone wouldn't care…

Yet, given the aesthetic power of synaesthesia, their howls of bondage re-emerge as the noisy drips marking each and every painting. These works' messy formal 'surplus', that authored seepage whose distinctive facture removes the idea that they are mere mechanical facsimiles, marks Lowman's appropriated property in the same way that an iron brand marks livestock. This is appropriation art as primitive accumulation, the quaking of the earth with the war drums of one’s hubris, spitting or jizzing in someone’s soup to inform them who really owns them.


Crucial to understanding the cultural value of Conan’s deeply conservative art was that screenwriter Oliver Stone intended for the film adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s fantasy novels to be set in a post-apocalyptic future—a wholly normative coke-fueled epiphany akin to all the other return to order fantasies of mainstream cinema during the Reagan years. This fact only further embellishes this return of the barbaric as sovereign operator in a posthistorical time that delineates its public sense by coming home everyday to family values. Might Nate, in a fit of patrilineal anxiety, throw celebrity women under the bus because he can only impregnate their mediated image with meaning and not their factual bodies with his conquering seed? Even a painting of a notorious hurricane is understood through this patriarchal angst, a swirling vortex of trauma complete with a woman's name—a name that might as well be 'Mary-Kate'.

Like the raising of the sun to extinguish the mongrel night, this overflowing exhibition salutes this tumescent prince with the fulfilment of his kingship, the coronation of his self—Nate, The Lowman—into the sovereign figure through which a contemporary public is able to circulate their being and its 'whatever' understandings. A quick google search of ‘nate lowman’ reveals his indissoluble lordship, nowhere do the artistic by-products of his kingly autopoeisis figure in the results, only the man himself appears. Nate caught by a papparrazzo as he passes through the 'public' interstices between his studio and home and all as he hangs on the arm of his now lost queen.

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