Nate Lowman - Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Wednesday, February 11, 2015 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Maccarone Gallery, New York
    Private Collection
    Phillips, New York, Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 11 November 2013, Lot 2
    Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    New York, Maccarone Gallery and Gavin Brown's enterprise, Trash Landing, 7 May – 18 June 2011

  • Catalogue Essay

    ‘It’s the most fun thing you could ever do – you get into the rhythm – and I set out to make three, and I figured if one of them was awesome, then I’d destroy the other two, but I really loved all of them, and they’re so fun to make, so I started making them over and over.’

    - NATE LOWMAN, 2012

    Nate Lowman emerged alongside Dan Colen, Dash Snow and Ryan McGinley as part of a contingent of brash young New York artists who burst onto the scene in the early 2000s. Famed for his iconic bullet holes, Lowman creates abrasive, often nihilistic works in the appropriative vein of Richard Prince, inheriting from graffiti, skateboarding and DIY punk aesthetics. ‘A lot of the images I use are already out there in the public or in the news. I just steal them or photograph them or repaint them, so they've already been talked about, already been consumed. I'm just reopening them to get at their second, third, or fourth meanings. It really comes down to language. I feel like the biggest failure of humans is miscommunication. We can't communicate with each other – we can fight, we can kill, we can do those things well. Language is the most beautiful and destructive thing because it allows you to express yourself, but it totally confuses everything.’ (Nate Lowman in conversation with Leo Fitzpatrick, Interview Magazine, 20/01/2009).

    The present lot, one of an extensive series of Marilyns, is emblematic of the semiotic confusion and disjunction that Lowman explores. Initially it appears to be a silkscreen, with the attendant smudges and imperfections of printed ink: however, on closer inspection this effect reveals itself as trompe l’oeil, in fact painted by hand from an image projected onto the linen. The image depicted is based on the Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning’s 1954 painting Marilyn Monroe. Lowman reinterprets de Kooning’s distinctively bellicose painterly style as part of an investigation into the violence of Pop culture: the Marilyns first appeared as part of his show Trash Landing, which also included pieces from his infamous Bullet Hole series. For Lowman, violence and celebrity became inseparable after the O. J. Simpson trial, which obsessed him as a youth. He explains his choice of image: ‘de Kooning … painted her so violently. It’s one of the only de Koonings I can think of that’s not “woman with a number.” It’s a person, so it has this extra weirdness to it. So, I thought about this violence towards blond women, and weird anger management, and what if de Kooning and O.J. were the same person.’ (Nate Lowman in Maxwell Williams, ‘Nothing is Finished,’ Flaunt Magazine Issue 119, Spring 2012).

    Repeated and attenuated, abstracted from an already abstracted form, Lowman’s treatment of this image echoes the uneasy marriage of the glamorous and the macabre that Andy Warhol made in his own Marilyn series, reminding us of her tragic and untimely death in 1962. Societal adoration of the female icon is exposed as reductive and problematic, uneasy washes of pastel colour seeming to enact hesitancy at the emergent Marilyn’s reification: she remains on the verge of full apprehension, barely held together in a fragile collection of sketchy visual signifiers. Long having lost any real connection to her biographical story, in collective memory Monroe has become a transcendent cultural symbol of female sexuality; Lowman’s postmodern detachment from his subject (and his subject’s subject) allows him to critique this mode of presentation. This is by no means a work made in reverence to de Kooning or Warhol, but rather a hyperbolic, serialised deconstruction of the attitudes that their approaches embody. Lowman elaborated this conceptual caricaturing with My Favorite Part of My Favorite Painting (2011), an edition of 50 close-ups of Marilyn’s bosom cropped from his own work.

    Talking of the intensive repetition involved in the series, it seems that Lowman himself aimed to inhabit destructive obsession. ‘I like the psychosis of it … I imagine it’s why serial killers get a weird joy out of killing the same way every time. I just do it until I’m done with it.’ (Fan Zhong, ‘Apr. 30: Nate Lowman Shows in New York,’ W Magazine, April 2011). Voracious and irreverent in his digestion of cultural tropes – apart from Marilyn and the bullet holes, he has worked extensively with smiley faces and more recently the Apple logo – Lowman's method darkly diagnoses the hysterical compulsions that drive our adoration of images of violence and beauty.


Trash Landing Marilyn #12

oil, alkyd on linen
167 x 118.7 cm (65 3/4 x 46 3/4 in.)
Signed and dated 'Nate Lowman 2011' on the overlap.

£400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for £422,500

Contact Specialist
Peter Sumner
Head of Contemporary Art, London
+44 207 318 4063

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 12 February 2015 7pm