Nate Lowman - Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 13, 2014 | Phillips
  • Provenance

    Maccarone, New York
    Important Private Collection, Europe

  • Catalogue Essay

    “To me, a drop of oil paint or a xerographic dot are the same thing - they're all just language.” Nate Lowman, 2011

    Nate Lowman’s bullet holes have gained a certain iconic status, due in no small part to their unusual ability to at once evoke the macabre and the kitsch aspects of American society as we know them. Lowman dares to reveal in his own words, throughout years of interviews and artist talks, our total fascination with death, violence, and sexuality—however glib the conversation may be. His categorical style of a trompe l’oeil silkscreen on shaped canvases possess a totally remarkable tendency to drain its viewers of delight while somehow managing to invigorate a dark embrace of death. The agonizing pierce of a rogue bullet has been transformed, truly unabashedly reduced, into an emblem of our detritus, a subliminal canvas which may not achieve any more than placement on a wall.

    Measuring nearly six feet tall and six feet across, Lowman’s vivid Pink Escalade explodes in all directions. Pushing beyond conventional canvas format, Lowman conveys the initial moment of dramatic impact with jagged, explosive ingenuity. Charged with graphic energy, this volatile, rose pink spark is arrested perfectly in time and space. In the midst of this daring, visual emblem, a dark puncture hole recedes into vacant space, a chilling indication of death and destruction.

    The present lot belongs to a series of Bullet Hole works whose multiplicity is critical to Lowman’s conceptual message. He believes “Good ideas should be engaged with until exhaustion." Throughout his career, Lowman has continually reconsidered and reformulated his expression of the bullet hole motif in order to expose its multiple meanings and ubiquity in contemporary culture. These repetitions point to a larger, societal desensitization to violent imagery and gun culture. With sustained attention, Lowman investigates the underlying psychological darkness of post-war America and its popular imagery. The dark, conceptual character of this project is concentrated. Lowman said: “The bullet holes were a good opportunity to have the cultural things that I'm interested in come together... It was a step in a different direction. I still wanted it to be about stuff, not just be like ‘this looks like art and it's on the wall’. I wanted it to have content” (Nate Lowman, 2009).

    Lowman’s Bullet Holes evidence the formal and conceptual influence of his Pop Art predecessors. In Pink Escalade the adeptness with which he abbreviates physical force brings to mind the comic adaptations of Roy Lichtenstein, whose benday dots also pervade in Lowman’s oeuvre. The serial nature of the Bullet Holes also recalls the Death and Disaster works of Andy Warhol, a project predicated on a similar fascination with violence in mass culture. Lowman’s reconsideration of the rectangular canvas is also tied to the formal breakthroughs of predecessors: “A lot of my art is about violence and crime. I also really like shaped canvases. I’ve always loved Ellsworth Kelly, I love all the Brazilians, the Neo concrete people like Lygia Clark. I always wanted to make these shaped canvas objects but I didn’t want to make a Blinky Palermo with jagged edges; I wanted to make something else. The bullet holes were a good opportunity to have the cultural things that I’m interested in come together with that” (Nate Lowman, Bad Day Magazine, 2009).

    Melding a sensibility for graphic art with both painterly and sculptural qualities, Lowman reconsiders the bounds of media in his contemporary artistic practice. He said, “I don’t think I’m a painter, I’m definitely not a sculptor, even though I’ve made a few sculptures. I’m not a graphic designer. They’re all different layers of language that either function really well together or are at odds with each other and you figure out a way to make them all open up with each other to make them more interesting...It’s about building up the different languages and letting them fail and letting them succeed” (Nate Lowman, 2009). Lowman’s composite formal language facilitates a project that is both packed with aesthetic punch, and loaded with intellectual rigor. Wedding both of these qualities together, Pink Escalade is a fantastic example of Lowman’s artistic charge.


Pink Escalade

silkscreen ink on canvas, laid on panel
63 3/4 x 59 1/2 in. (162 x 151 cm)
Signed and dated "Nate Lowman 2005" along the overlap.

$500,000 - 700,000 

Sold for $545,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 13 November 2014 7pm