Nathan Menglesis, Truncated Pyramid, 2010
Verschiedene Stifte, Tusche auf Papier, 164 x 152 cm
Hamish Morrison Galerie is pleased to present an installation by Nathan Menglesis in the gallery's office. This is Menglesis's first solo show with the gallery.
Menglesis has taken over the whole office, turning it into part-gallery, part-artist's studio and part-apartment. His drawings spill off the paper and across the walls; smaller works-in-progress creep around the windows; and there's a couch for viewers to sit down, grab a beer, and watch videos.
A single figure runs through the entire installation - an emaciated male of unclear age, topped with an absurd late-eighteenth century wig. He appears again and again in three-quarter profile, setting up strange vignettes that never quite resolve themselves into full stories. One could read a political element into Menglesis's skeletal protagonist: the Holocaust, starvation in sub-Saharan Africa, Srebrenica, and anorexia all come to mind. But in fact, Menglesis's repeated figure aspires to a very different conversation: a dialogue with the ultra-detailed, hyper-real comic books of the 1990s.
The emaciation of Menglesis's central figure acts as a counterpoint to the steroid-like muscularity of the characters that populated those comic books; instead of bulging biceps and popping veins, we see ribcages and cheekbones. Menglesis achieves the same levels of detail and draftsmanship as his comic-book mentors but he goes after it in reverse, reducing the male form to its most basic elements - skin and bone. There are strong art historical references here too, in that the figure is based on a much fleshier patron from a Joshua Reynolds portrait. If there is a political aspect in Menglesis's work, this is where it arises: he has deliberately chosen a model that represents pompousness, wealth and power - issues which, two hundred years later, still haven't gone away.
Perhaps this is also why Menglesis allows so many "trashy" elements into his work - they're a means to undermine such established, tidy cultural hierarchies. For example, despite the painstaking attention he lavishes on his main figures, the surfaces of his drawings are often stained with ink or tea, or splattered with paint. And there are lowbrow forms throughout: cartoon dinosaurs and chimpanzees; garish green toxic spills; teenage mutant ninja turtles. As a consequence, his installation sits between the worlds of the comic book, the museum and the gallery, absorbing all of their structures effortlessly and confronting each with their limitations.
Nathan Menglesis was born in 1978. Originally from Waukegan, Illinois, he has also lived in Florida, North Carolina, Seattle and Amsterdam. His work has been included in exhibition in several cities around the world. He has created designs and illustrations for magazines, posters, album covers and books in The Netherlands, Germany and the US. He lives and works in Berlin.