Todd Norsten, Middle America
September 15 – October 29, 2011
Opening Reception Thursday, September 15, 6-8 pm
Fitzroy Gallery is pleased to announce Middle America, a solo exhibition of new works on paper by artist Todd Norsten.
Todd Norsten’s practice begins with his own snapshots, which form an ongoing visual diary. Like a digital sketchbook, he spontaneously captures commercial signs, materials, objects and posters. By taking words and pictures out of their original context and reframing them, Norsten opens up the possibilities of language. Words and discrete images, whether they are handmade or mechanically produced, aim for a direct and simplified deposit of information with the singular purpose of re-contextualizing the texts in a completely different system of communication.
Middle America is comprised of approximately seventy works on paper exhibited in one linear installation. Norsten’s images, whether they are abstractions, representations, texts or signs, are all somewhat “known”, and articulate a nostalgia and diligence that is often characterized as reflecting "traditional" American values. The images present dialogues as expressed through the mundane detritus of objects, signs and language. The artist’s ability to balance high and low creates an endlessly intriguing lens through which to view the works.
The humble origins of his subjects are employed to investigate the esoteric tenets of modernist painting; and one prevents the other from becoming formally over determined, or too shrill in its cultural observance. With texts such as “Recipe for Success: 1 lb Bacon”; “Notice Watch Your Step”; “Its too late/we already subverted the picture plane/oh o.k.”, some drawings will be read as optimistic and honest or witty or sardonic or sinister, a nod to Warholian Pop or Minimalism but most often than not the portrayal is simply objective.
The drawings may appear to be automatic, but like his paintings, they are formal exercises, which push the limits of mark-making. Norsten’s approach to his work, and in particular, to material and technique is not second to content :
I in reality love painting. I HATE artifice. There are many painters that
are full of shit. The use of paint as material is more complicated than I
am generally given credit. In life and in paint, there are people that use
fanciness and pretense, there are people that are direct and efficient. I
would like to be included in the second group. I haven't read it for a long
time but as I remember “Nietzsche contra Wagner” got it pretty good.
My extremely reduced version of what that book said is this: Don't make
fancy swirling drama to impress people, be direct, don't use drama to
cover lack of content. I use paint as a material, not just the material for
making pretty pictures. Paint is used by people to paint rooms and to
make signs. It is a material that is used to directly express many things
including when and where commerce occurs. I think that as a material
the art people want to make use of it only in their way. One of the things
that pops into my head over and over was a thing Frank Stella allegedly
said to Carl Andre about "common" materials being sculpture too. That is
how I think about paint. (Todd Norsten)
Todd Norsten was born in 1967 in Sunburg, Minnesota. He has exhibited at galleries and museums in the United States, Europe and Asia, including International Print Center, Midway Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center, and Whitney Museum of American Art. His work is included in the collections of British Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center.
A limited edition silk-screen T-shirt will be published in conjunction with the exhibition.
Todd Norsten, Middle America, will be on view September 15 through October 29, 2011 with an opening reception on Thursday, September 15 from 6 – 8 pm. Fitzroy Gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 am – 6 pm and by appointment. For further inquiries, please contact the gallery at 212.343.8670 or firstname.lastname@example.org.