BFA, Kansas City Art Institute, Kansas City, MO, 2001
Nathan Mabry Gallery Art
Cherry and Martin, Los Angeles, CA
Sean Kelley, New York, NY
Nathan Mabry's work transforms the known into the new and the unexpected, asserting artistic agency while at the same time engaging with art history and normative objects, such as readymades. A Duchampian trajectory is balanced by an art-making urge that springs from other early Modernists such as Brancusi, Lipchitz, and Picasso, whose visual avarice led them to a range of "exotic" cultural material in an effort to create their own visual language. While Mabry's borrowings from the Early Modernists and from Native American, Pre-Columbian, and African art are quite direct, our thinking about the complexity of their interactions with their source material usually is not. Working with both threads in mind is interesting to Mabry, who is ultimately focused on the integrity of his own art objects. Mabry's fascination with how objects function in the public mind and his desire to address the totality of culture, both high and low, fuels an urge to make relevant, holistic objects that engage with the inherent complexities of the world in which we live. In addition, the very way that we experience or approach Mabry's pieces—whether in an art historical context or through other modes of consumption—becomes an interesting topic that allows for humor and surprise, complexity and contemplation.
The concept of masking flows throughout Mabry's practice. For his Process Art series, he purchased bronze sculptures online and masked them with bronze casts of found masks and mascot heads. The process of masking is neither straightforwardly performative nor interventionist; Mabry simultaneously transforms the original artwork and creates a new sculpture with the mask. The sculptures Mabry has chosen to mask fall roughly into three groups: classic figurative sculpture in collections, art historical copies, and vernacular scenes. They come from a number of sources in American culture—including sports team mascot heads and Halloween costumes—adding to the complexity and humor of his work.
His work has been reviewed in Art + Auction, Art in America, Frieze, Modern Painters, Sculpture Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times.