Sign Painting



Irma, 2022 Oil and alkyd on linen 90 x 126 inches

"History doesn’t influence me. I influence it." Willem De Kooning

Nate Lowman's new painting show of Weather Radar images of hurricanes entitled Let's Go is up at David Zwirner Gallery, 533 West 19th Street, NYC until April 16th, 2022.

In the first gallery a particular piece maps out the theme. A photograph of cars in a flooded street rendered in thin washes of paint. The consequences of awe-full weather.

As you walk into the second gallery there's a number of large hurricane paintings coloured using the Weather Radar system. It works in a variety of ways. Red and green connote velocity, brighter colours mean faster winds. They can also represent precipitation -- light green equals light rain through to bright pink meaning freezing rain or sleet.

The paint strokes have no relief, the material works more like a dye. You get the illusion of randomly poured colour. That does, initially, make them look like Post War Abstract paintings. They look less illustrative when there’s evidence of looser paint handling. Like the rain of tiny drips on a couple of pieces or the way colour builds up along the edges of different areas of the watercolours which hang in the back gallery.

There are two significant layers. The coloured wind and cloud areas that swirl in concentric circles can read as swooshy Joan Mitchell-like strokes. The top layer is a more loosely rendered black line that acts like a drawing only on top rather than, underneath. At times this layer stutters like the kind of mono print mark that Warhol used in his early pop pieces. In some of the paintings it looks like the moiré grain of a flatscreen TV. On the watercolours it gets more gestural, more calligraphic.

The paintings are signs "representational" pieces in a coded way. At first they look like gestural abstractions and then they're something else. Like a visual Paraprosdokian where the first part of the sentence is undermined by the second. As in the Groucho Marx joke: "I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."

But the more I looked, the more they became abstract again.

Visual art can make all kinds of allusions all at once, it doesn’t have to follow in a line like a film or reading a book. They can be both abstract and representational, and talk about environmental disaster.

But what is this work saying about global warming?   

We all could’ve done more but some of those more directly responsible bought AbEx Art in the '50s and '60s, it spoke to them. It was the perfect backdrop for Empire building. They liked the speed and ease and the sense that anyone can do it

Abstraction's not to blame but these paintings do remind me of its dark side. The self destructive side. The tenebrous shadows of genocide in the late work of this Gorky just before he committed suicide. The damaged deliberations of De Kooning's "Women" series. The absolute integrity of the method, the absolute immersion. Demands visited on many who were émigrés that often had already seen too much. Leading to hard drinking, early death or suicide for some of its most famous practitioners.

"Through the years we have watched each other’s deaths like the final stock quotations of the day. To die early -- before one's time -- was to make the biggest coup of all…"

Morton Feldman

Great review! There is always hidden content and Mr. Hughes liberal take opens the door to the depths of possible reasons for making weather map paintings. My first thought with these Lowman's is that they were lifting from Kelly Walker's flex of finding beauty and a sense of glee within the spectacle of destruction and tragedy. Very glad to be intrigued by another reading.

Submitted by Eric Legris on May 24, 2022 - 18:10

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