Amy Nathan: Slipknot Loophole May 14 to June 29, 2022 CULT Aimee Friberg Exhibitions 1401 16th St, San Francisco CA 94103
Slipknot Loophole, a solo exhibition of bas reliefs, drawings, paintings and mixed media sculptures by Bay Area artist Amy Nathan. The works in Slipknot Loophole engage the mechanisms women use to hold themselves together and find that allowing release is an essential part of those systems.
Nathan’s second solo exhibition at CULT, Slipknot Loophole will be on view from May 14 to June 29, 2022, with an opening reception on May 14 from 3 to 5 p.m. at CULT’s San Francisco space (1401 16th St.). Ranging in scale from jewelry to architecture, Nathan’s work continues her material experimentation and her acute study of the distance between image and embodiment.
Slipknot Loophole extends Nathan’s engagement with the clothingand tools that are meant to double, reshape and camouflage the body. Eclectic in form and playful in style, Nathan’s works are culled from sources both ancient and contemporary. Interested in depictions of power as diffuse as Athena, J-Lo, Britney Spears and Medusa, Nathan reframes these icons that transcend time andorigin. Paparazzi photos and celebrity selfies are remade as Etruscan-style bas reliefs and pause as paintings, combining figurative imagery with geometric pattern and decoration.
The large installation Pelvic Porti coincludes a kitsch stage-set-like portico, built from a hybrid of lace underwear and the armored exo skeletons of war. Hammered metal sheets made in the image of ruffled lingerie frame arches, and pulled threads stand in as columns.
Another sculptural work, Flying Buttress, is a screen-like construction of hinged and painted wood that externalizes the corsetry lacework—hung along walls and pressed into corners in whimsical curlicues of acrylic, vinyl, paint and wood. The bows, ribbons and grommets that flex and release a corset arethe sequential, calligraphic dots and lines that show up not only in the painted wood sculptures, but also as a series of drawings.
These looping and drooping shapes pause for comic effect—marginalia’s doodles writ large. Nathan, a child of the 1980s, recalls the corsetry of Madonna’s Blond Ambition as the moment when under garments moved from private to public. Central to Slipknot Loophole is a trio of pieces that appear first as bas-reliefs and recur as trompe l’oeil paintings. These three images of pop icons are connected by the emboldened gestures they highlight and aptly named, Power Poses. Engaging with these images first through texture, Nathan constructed bas-reliefs out of plaster, resin and clay, then used photography and drawing to recreate their textural experience. Nathan speaks to how duplication and displacement of an idea from one material to another can conceal and reveal in the same breath:
“My studio process of passing an image through states of being (photograph to drawing, to sculpture, to painting) furthers the distance from the original but leaves the physical trace of my hand. I’m interested in how close the casting process feels to photography—I make cast tablets (like printed photographs) from a single clay slab (the “negative”). In several sculptures, an image is cast onto itself multiple times and in different materials, some are opaque layers and some transparent. There is a search for the vestige’s origin that I’m interested in—that archaeological line we follow, hoping to find answers to write the history, to make the myth.”
The formal shift from the works employing photographic mimesis to those rendered in calligraphic marks parallels the way we take in and process photograph, image and the written word. Nathan calls up Susan Sontag’s maxim of “The Image World”: that a photograph is always “a trace, something stenciled directly off the real.”
Slipknot Loophole also includes a wide range of drawings, friezes and sculptures directly depictive of Western antiquity. The corset drawings and sculptures continue Nathan’s “objects as handwriting” project—using ink and calligraphy brush, Nathan draws mechanisms within a gridded structure evoking lined looseleaf or graph paper. In the Corset Grid drawing series, the laces pull and release this framework. In painted wood sculptures such as Flying Buttress and Shine Your Heavenly Body Tonight, the figures are removed from a grid and find agency, striking their own power pose.