Archive for May, 2016

Adam Hager at the Arlington Art Center

I recently visited Adam Hager’s Mechanical Resonance at the Arlington Art Center. Hager has taken apart mechanical objects and rebuilt them into objects resembling toys. The base materials come from functional objects like car parts, computers, clocks, a music box, and sewing machines. What is interesting here is taking parts that are used for labor and reapplying them to constructed objects seemingly used for play. 2016-05-04 15.00.47.jpg

The origins of these things are industrial, with symmetry used for specific purposes. Yet that purpose is suborned with whimsy. A kid would want to play with these. Maybe the staff has to keep kids from running off with them. But they aren’t just toys. They are in the art setting. They are toys for art. Toys for collectors. One of them sold, a pink dot (not a red dot). Will the collector play with it? What is the lineage of these objects? From industry, to toy, to art.

There is whimsy in their scale as well. This one is tiny, and under a magnifying glass.

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Hager’s keystone of the show is a car engine with hand crank. Pistons potentially pistoning. All metal and seemingly capable of going right back into a car, right back to its origin. When I visited I was lucky enough to see another object interact with the engine.

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Maybe the bucket has some more mechanical resonance with the engine.

The engine piece is called Tune. Turn the crank and the pistons pump, chiming off tuning forks. Tune the engine, tune the forks, tune the mechanical resonance from efficient to whimsy and back.

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Nathan Loda at Adah Rose Gallery

I’m not sure how to write about a friend’s work. I’m not even sure what kind of writing I plan to do for this. Would it be a review? Would it be a, “I was there,” bit of writing. How do I write this?

I wrote several drafts then deleted them. I could revive them, but only in spirit. There were a few nice turns of phrases, little naked dances. And quite a lot of personal relativity. I like Nathan. And that liking is leading my key board tapping. Can I divorce my personal feelings from the analysis? What about artists I don’t like? Won’t that personal feeling influence the reading?

So how can this work. What is the issue here? Is it an issue at all?

I’ll ease into this. Nathan’s underpainting. An umber-sienna drawing then paint up on top. The ending not too smooth, not too painterly. Maybe somewhere in between.  Not just layers. He leaves that earthen underpainting to poke through. Like Jenny Saville with her burning cadmium blaring, yet Nathan’s under painting slow burns, pushes its way to the fore.

You can see it nicely in several cases.

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Look close, boiling beneath that top most layer is that earthen light. That umber underpainting.

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So the painting is done yet some areas are just touched. Manet’s thumbs. He lets the furthest point shine through. And so we get some luminosity.

And the scale is small. Intimate so your body has to relate to the thing, close up. And Adah’s gallery is likewise intimate. So a good pairing here.

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And the subject matter does what Nathan does. Is what Nathan is. That conflicted person, conflicted American. Conflicted history. Skate punk down in the holler. A hunter, killing and planting. He speaks Italian and Spanish and maybe more languages. He has traveled.

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The interpretation can be subjective. Maybe that’s how art is good and less authoritarian. Allowing for more voices. The viewer completing the thing through observation and interpretation. Maybe when the painting presents us with many possible interpretations, then perhaps that ambiguity allows for some potential. So perhaps ambiguity is an inclusive gesture. But do these particular depictions include or exclude?

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There is a thought that toys are safe. For the child they are safe; they are content-less. But one wonders if a toy is neutral.

How can a thing be neutral. It was made for a reason. The toys are myth objects, telling us who we think we are, who we want our children to think they are. Maybe parents give their children toys because they are leading their learning. Leading their world views. Like putting a text (any text) in their hands, like letting them touch the hot stove. So to give a child Cowboys and Indians, what might that parent intend? What might a manufacturer intend? Are those toys neutral? What narratives are implanted?

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Nathan Loda’s Histories, Heroes and Small Moments at Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, MD up through June 5, 2016.