Ron Nagle is known for his intimately scaled sculptures made of ceramic elements that are slip-cast, fired, and embellished with epoxy and other synthetic materials that allow him to expand his forms beyond the limits of clay. Evoking otherworldly landscapes or surreal architectural arrangements, Nagle’s inventive works elicit a vast range of associations. A new exhibition of the artist’s work is now on at Matthew Marks in New York.
Nagle’s interventions of sculpture, specifically ceramics, takes a decidedly atmospheric approach, creating objects that could be, by some consideration, micro-landscapes in their own right. Bodies and forms dart out from the works’ surfaces, and conjure familiar associations that evoke natural materials and familiar scenes. North Pole Dancer, for instance, seems to evoke a snaking tree branch jutting up from the work’s base, complemented by a heap of white material drifting down one side, while another work, Pink Flamenco, quite expressly conjures a domestic interior, complete with a microcosmic vase atop a shelf. Others, like Barnyard Dharma, take on a more totemic quality, self-contained systems that seem to conjure spiritual others and unspoken inner worlds.
Throughout, these structural systems are complemented by the artist’s mastery of surfaces and textures, alternating between gleaming smooth surfaces and speckled, rough-hewn ones that create a series of interlocking visual cues on their own right. One might even consider Nagle’s works on view here as visual systems, a selection of techniques and signposts that guide the viewer through a harmonious interplay between opposites and counterpoints. Smooth gives way to rough, gentle curves are halted by a sudden, sheer face of material. Throughout one is always aware of a tension between these forms in each aspect, yet Nagle masterfully orchestrates their various visual effects towards a whole that embraces the three-dimensional. Even with their miniature scale and subtle detail, Nagle seems to have created self-contained worlds in micro, worlds that demand, and reward, a viewer willing to spend the time exploring every corner and plane.
The show is on view through October 23rd.
– D. Creahan
Ron Nagle at Matthew Marks [Exhibition Site]