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Nick Naber: Visibility Is A Trap


photos by Lance Brewer

Opening Reception: July 26th, 2019 7-9pm
On View through August 25, 2019
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Organized by Alejandro Jassan

“…we are looking at a picture in which the painter is in turn looking out at us.”

—Michel Foucault
Las Meninas, The Order of Things

Trestle Gallery is proud to present Visibility Is A Trap, a solo exhibition of works by Nick Naber (b.1986). Focused on Naber’s use of the line, geometry, and repetitive gesture, the exhibition includes drawings and paintings on paper in a variety of media made within the past eight years.

Created as hypothetical renderings based on the likeness of Brutalist and Modern architecture, the works on view emphasize the artist’s investigation of various methods of perspectival projection that underline the tension between movement and spatial perspective. The artist’s preoccupation with conceptualism is evident in the repetitive gestures and systematic compositions of his drawings, making reference to structure, architectural form, and urban planning. While these works rely on straightforward geometry, they are hand drawn and unpredictable. As critic Scott Robinson wrote, “The artist’s struggle for control is visibly present in the process, the struggle is again depicted in the formal subject matter against the nature of the medium, and the compositions themselves are metaphors for repressive orders demonstrated in societies today and in the history of the world.”

The title of the exhibition is drawn from Michel Foucault’s 1975 Discipline and Punish, where the author analyzes the social and theoretical mechanisms behind the changes that occurred in Western penal systems during the modern age. Here, Foucault demonstrates how the Panopticon turns the subject into a “fish in an aquarium, birds in a cage, robbed of a voice and unable to hide.” Similarly, Naber’s compositions place the viewer as both the inmate and the guardian, subjecting them to a constrained field of visibility while also giving them access to an unobstructed view.

Anchoring the exhibition is the monumental wall drawing Facility 10 (2019). The structure is derived from a recent drawing (Facility 9, 2019), from the Visage series, where two geometric compositions are over-imposed, thus creating an optical illusion that lacks coherency and spatiality, but implies a three dimensional space. Referring to both structures of power and construction, the mural sheds a light into Naber’s recurring interest in sociopolitical hierarchy and the exertion of power.

Also on view is a selection of works from Naber’s eight year oeuvre. Culled from different series and media, the works are presented in a non-hierarchical masonry grid that give insight into the artist’s approach to geometric abstraction. Conceived with arbitrary mathematical rules or instructions, the artist would embrace rebellions within these frameworks, breaking rules, inverting formulas. Ironically, the rhythmical repetitive act of drawing in this case echoes the involuntary functions of the human body, such as breathing, walking, and heart beating, thus giving an organic quality to an otherwise inanimate picture. 

Over the past decade, Naber has approached his drawings and paintings on paper with a rigorous and repetitious method that reveals a more cerebral approach to art making. As curator Dave Harper wrote, “Naber’s vision is concerned with the means through which architecture can address the body in ways that regulate social and psychological inclusion, exclusion, and observation and that expose systems of visual control.”

Nick Naber received his MFA in painting and drawing from Pratt Institute (2012) and his BFA from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (2010). He has had three solo exhibitions, one at The Java Project and two at OPUS Projects, along with group exhibitions at multiple venues. Nick's work has been reviewed by Painting is Dead for his solo exhibition Untitled (series) at The Java Project (2018). He has been interviewed numerous times about his practice, and his work has been published in Art Maze Magazine (Winter 2019), A queer anthology of rage (2018), Alt/Process (2015), GRAPHITE Journal (2012). Nick is also the Co- Founder/East Coast Editor and Contributor at The Coastal Post.

Alejandro Jassan is a Mexican curator and critic. He is currently the Director of Communications at Alexander Gray Associates, New York, and is a contributing writer for Elle Mexico and Quien magazines. As a curator, Jassan has organized multiple one person exhibitions, including Evan Halter: Vanitas, The Java Project, NY (2018); Michael Adno: Cracker Politics, Spring/Break Art Show (2016); Jorge Tellaeche: I Will Stay Here… A Little Bit Longer, New York (2014; co-curated with Lara Balderrama); as well as the group exhibitions Haptic, Alexander Gray Associates, New York (2017; co-curated with John Kunemund and Carly Fischer); You’re Invited, Spring/Break Art Show (2019; co-curated with Deanna Evans); Material Transaction, Spring/Break Art Show (2019); among others.

Earlier Event: June 20
Lobster Dinner