Nathan Green: Happy Birthday Moon
In his second Art Palace solo show, Green throws a powerful punch of relentless joy
Reviewed by Andrew Long, Fri., June 5, 2009
'Nathan Green: Happy Birthday Moon'
through June 17
Every once in a blue moon, an exhibition appears that delivers such a powerful punch, you are left wondering why it goes so unnoticed. Nathan Green's second solo exhibit is such a show.
Viewing "Happy Birthday Moon" too quickly could easily discount the work, with its frequent use of symbols such as happy faces, turtles, snowmen, dolphins, and rainbows, as being borderline kitschy or simplistic. That would totally miss the point. Green inventively skews them to build a plethora of exuberant narratives that explore the ecstatic. He gives himself the freedom to do anything, and that is where the power lies. He is willing to put it all out there. Green is the underdog here and a fighter who will surprise you.
He plays with you, both as expression and strategy, throwing a jab or two, then backing off before stepping in for a solid punch. Diverging colors collide in a harmony that shouldn't make sense logically but does. He also frequently tilts the picture plane, changes perspective, lowers the vantage point, and then succinctly places a flat object in the middle. You cheer wildly sometimes. Other times you wince, wishing Green could have swung a bit more deftly. It was tenacity and risk that brought success thus far. So you wait for the next round, the next image.
Green's strongest punch is his relentless joy, which permeates the exhibition. He is not afraid to take a page from his childhood's playbook. And in a world currently so out of balance, why not return to one's imagination of another time and place? Green uses these constructed narratives as a guide. We become privy to his viewpoint, inventiveness, and compositional complexity and watch delightfully from outside the ring.
Green is willing to win any way he can. He applies paint directly from the tube, uses spray paint when necessary, and continually builds his images by painting over previous work. His command of the paintbrush and use of variegated color bands are effective throughout his work. Green's choice to make these mixed-media paintings on paper allows him the necessary fluidity to cut up individual works and merge them with others. He uses flat colors, but his hyperkinetic paint marks and gestures excite the picture plane, as if the dust of positive and negative magnets were mixed into his paints. His paintings demand that you keep looking because they are so active.
In several exhibitions at Art Palace this past season, the artist took into consideration the gallery space and exhibition as a totality. Green carries it further, and all of his moves make sense, including several pieces of sculpture. He has painted an entire wall of the gallery with bright colors, only to place Detail of Aurora Borealis, a small black-and-white painting, solely off center. It oddly becomes a window to the outside, yet we are determined to continue our journey and stay indoors; no use traipsing across the universe when the complexity of his work is surely enough.
Perhaps the right metaphor for Green's exhibit can be found in A Different and Smaller Infinity, a delightful small painting. Upon a black-and-white-striped background, two splayed hands humbly plead. Across the palms, Green places an invented infinity sign that wiggles like a snake. It screams out, "Can't you see it is all right here?" That is so true. If this exhibition were in New York, people would be knocking down the door to get in. For now, Green can only wait patiently. In the meantime, go see for yourself before he can no longer be called the underdog.