consumer reports: erin jane nelson
Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
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CONSUMER REPORTS: ERIN JANE NELSON
By The Editors of ARTnews
Posted 03/28/16 12:00pm
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Erin Jane Nelson.
SARAH MCMENIMEN
Erin Jane Nelson is an artist living and working in Atlanta. She directs the space Species with
Jason Benson and their dog Lilo Caraway. In the last year, Nelson has mounted solo exhibitions
at Hester in New York and Document in Chicago. Recently, she has participated in group
exhibitions at Galerie Division, Montreal; Centre for Style, Melbourne; Favorite Goods, Los
Angeles; and Kimberly Klark, Queens.
For Nelson, one late February week is spent attending to openings at her ATL space and
speaking at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, for Reed Arts Week. While in the Northwest,
Nelson takes the time to check out the Portland Art Museum and write thoughtfully about some
standout work on display. All that and more—including check-ins with her dog’s Instagram
account and a guest appearance from Baby Ikki himself, Michael Smith—is below.
—John Chiaverina
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
Monday, February 29
6:50 a.m.
Lilo steps on my face and starts whining to wake me up. We are out of the house by 7:05 for his
walk:
7:41 a.m.
I log into my dog’s instagram account (@hobo.prince.atl) and look through his feed—all
animals. Find this image of Sadie wearing a custom Walking Dead print dress—I too just
purchased a different Walking Dead print fabric for future dog clothes.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
At 11 a.m., I stumble across a spread of James “Son” Thomas works in an exhibition catalog
from the 1990s. The resemblance of the bust on the far left is alarming! Who couldn’t see this
grubby little ladyman liberty as Führer Trump? Thomas was a gravedigger and a blues musician
working out of Mississippi—most of his works are these unfired foraged clay busts with real
human teeth. I’ve been thinking about them nonstop since my friend Daniel showed me one he
recently acquired.
At around 3:30 p.m. I check out the Met’s new website which was released earlier today and end
up browsing their “Digital Underground” blog. How have I not heard about this Meow Met
browser extension? By 3:45 I am making new tab after new tab to see all these rando-generated
pussies.
4:02 p.m.
I head across town to Species (the space Jason and I just opened in Atlanta) for our first opening.
Brook and Jason are already here finishing up the final details.
At 5:09 p.m. my mom texts me and asks if I’d like her to pick up a platter of nuggets from Chikfil-A for the opening—I regrettably have to decline…
8:35 p.m.
During the opening, my friend Alex Robbins asks if I’ve read Interspecies Ethics by Cynthia
Willett, which I haven’t. He tells me the writer is a colleague at Emory—I download the ebook.
Monday, March 1
7:12–8:09 a.m.
Dog Jog in Piedmont Park. We stop by the Noguchi Playscape, which is the only Noguchidesigned playground completed during his lifetime. It was the High Museum’s gift to Atlanta
(via NEA money) in 1976 and has been incredibly well preserved for a 40-year-old functional
playground. Dawn is somehow the only appropriate time for a childless adult to spend as much
time in a playground as I do here. I check my Free Will Astrology newsletter and head home.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
10:54 a.m.
Jason and I vote for the primaries in the gym of Grady High School. (Fun fact: this is where the
Joel Dean went to high school!!!)
*BREAKING*
11:49 a.m.
Aria Dean’s incredible new piece “Closing the Loop” in the New Inquiry lights my social feeds
on fire—as it should. It’s the best piece of art criticism I’ve read this year and I’m craving a
whole book of her thoughts now. If you have not read this corrective for the endemic selfie
feminism (a phenomenon I’ve utterly despised) you’re missing out.
3 p.m.
I stop into Atlanta Contemporary to take another look at the shows that have recently opened and
to drop off the rent check. My studio and Species are both out of their Artist Studio Program,
located behind the institution.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
Left to right: Ebony G Patterson’s work, Daniel Fuller (curator), Robin Cameron, and Lucas
Blalock’s work.
4 p.m.
Filled out my dog’s application to the Georgia RenFest Cosplay/Canine weekend’s doggy
costume contest. We’re thinking a combination orc/butterfly with a very elaborate leash design.
6:47 p.m.
Took install views of Brook’s show. My favorite work is this carved alabaster piece titled Feelie.
Here’s to hoping she carves more in 2016.
10:35 p.m.
Severe thunderstorms, writing emails, dog in lap swaddled in thundershirt.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
Wednesday, March 2
Was underwhelmed by all my all my consumptions today and was too distracted with travel prep
to log—I did watch a lot of Flipping Out season 7 after work, in case you were curious.
However, I did have my favorite Meow Met tab yet:
Thursday, March 3
9:08 a.m.
On my flight to Portland (I’m speaking at Reed College tomorrow) reading Cesar’s Way by
Cesar Millan (a.k.a. the Dog Whisperer). This book is incredible so far! For example, in his
recollections immediately following a tumultuous illegal border crossing from Mexico into the
United States, he points out “leashes” as the first visual difference he noticed between the
countries. And spends an entire chapter describing how to effectively communicate in nonverbal
languages with any pet. As an anxious flyer, I am hardly even noticing the constant turbulence as
I’m hanging off Cesar’s every word.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
12:15 p.m.
I arrive at Reed College and my host takes me to the cafeteria for lunch. Amused, horrified, and
inspired to discover “The Scrounge” where tens of unfinished plates and bowls are left for the
needy and the freegan students alike to eat the scraps of their peers. I can’t think of anything
more liberal arts than this.
2:20 p.m.
After sitting with coffee and Cesar for a bit, I meet up with Nick Irvin, who is also in town to
speak at Reed (as part of a student–organized conference of sorts called RAW or Reed Arts
Week). I help Nick prep for his performative lecture scheduled for later that evening. While
touring around the buildings, we see this fantastic but uncredited piece of student art:
At 6 p.m., I attend Martine Sym’s talk hosted by Reed’s poetry department. I had no idea she
was also going to be around this week, and I’m thrilled to see her speak. She reads from several
of her published projects and I’m struck by how she’s able to make the diaristic sound so well
cadenced, emotive, and urgent. I would die to have this skill.
Nick’s performance, The Angriest Dog in The World, starts at 8 p.m. and it goes swimmingly.
There is incidentally a dog walking around the darkened lecture room. Having only ever read
Nick’s reviews and commissioned show texts, I’m both pleasantly surprised and unsurprised that
his personal writing is so intense. More, please.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
Friday, March 4
Leave Tony and Flynn’s house by 7:30, grab coffee, and get on the bus toward downtown
Portland. Arrive at the Japanese Gardens by 9:20—they don’t open to the public until 10 a.m., so
I spend some time walking around the Rose Test Garden, which, at this time of year, is a wellmanicured garden of vines and thorns. The roses are months away from being in full bloom.
10 a.m.
They let me into the Japanese Gardens. Everyone told me these gardens were “good,” but this
sloping, mossy, overgrown but also incredibly manicured space is one of the best places I’ve
been all year. I spend about 30 minutes texting in the rock garden. It’s a great place to sit and
text.
At 11:15, I arrive at the Portland Art Museum.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
11:18 a.m.
The first thing I see upon entering the museum is a special Netsuke carving exhibition. Nothing
dreamier to me than a room full of tiny talismanic guys and I’m reminded of the animistic glass
miniatures I’ve been making for the last year. This particular one was called Rat with a Peapod
and was carved by Yamaguchi Okatomo in the 1700s.
11:29 a.m.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Nature’s Fan, 1881: This piece was glowy, impish, and
pastoral—I loved it for no particular reason really (a testament to how little I think about/look at
painting).
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
11:37 a.m.
Have obviously not spent enough time looking at ancient Mesoamerican artworks because this
seated figure from Mexico ca. 300 B.C. was totally ancient aliens in all the best ways. I text this
picture to Jason as something about this little man reminds me of him.
11:38 a.m.
More carving—this one in cedar on view on the Contemporary Native American gallery, Greg
Robinson’s nsayka phik’w (2015). The whole tabletop piece is beautiful, but I most love this orca
moment.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
11:44 a.m.
I’m so into this deflated, shiny, black cast bronze Sarah Lucas octopus that I’m willingly
ignoring the sarcastic spam cans and Ikea-esque chair. My stomach turns a little bit standing titto-tit with this thing.
12:01 p.m.
I’ve found “the winner.” There was an enormous, beloved Louise Nevelson work on the top
floor of Cooper Union when I was going there (probably still there), so I always go to this young,
naive, tender undergrad place when I see her work. Why don’t we hear more about Nevelson?
Surely we can substitute all the institutional chatter about the Ab-Ex/modernist dudes for
like…five minutes of hype about Nevelson. Her modular, dark, computational monoliths still
feel so relevant to me. This one was titled End of Day Nightscape II from 1973.
By 2 p.m. I’m back at Reed, giving my talk. I get to finally meet Manuel Arturo Abreu IRL.
Afterward, I spend the rest of the afternoon getting drinks with Tony Chenkra, Flynn Casey, and
Michael Van Horn who run Muscle Beach and Veronica, respectively.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Artnews | Artists
At 7:30 p.m. we head to Yale Union for the Michael Smith performance. I have seen Smith
lecture before, but this is my first Baby Ikki experience. Grubby little fingers in brown cakes,
selfie sticks, earnest pervert songs, cooing, and wobbling—an appropriate anti-hero semi-climax
to my week:
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http://www.artnews.com/2016/03/28/consumer-reports-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
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A fetish is a portal generator into another world, a potential reframing of reality by investing objects with
hidden powers. These inanimate objects are worshiped for their supposed magical powers because they
are considered to be inhabited by a spirit.
The magical dimensions of fetish creation are hazy at best. The creation of a fetish relies on a glitch
rather than a rule. It is often a subconscious build up that will open a fetish portal, which the subject has
very little conscious control over. Yet interestingly, immersion and exposure are able to trigger the
obsession; it is only in this element of the process that the subject can be said to have control over it.
Once the fetish is recognized and accepted, the goal then becomes to reach a place of deep immersion
within the fetish. At that point you transcend your position for a moment: Your obsession distorts your
sense of scale. Rational concerns become reduced in significance; they are all walled off and temporarily
unreachable. While the fetish field expands, temporarily occupying the vacuum in your agency, it instills a
new rubric for desire and repulsion, intention and action. It is this feature of the fetish zone that is the
most terrifying from the outside, but the most rich from the interior.
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Fetishes act as portals to hidden meanings and values. They punctuate the fabric of reality, allowing
access to different dimensions. A near total transition is conceivable, in which the world is redefined
through the fetish node, not just for the individual, but for the group, redefining the cultural landscape.
A software sustained by the group diffuses across the network, so that different people have different
access, add ons and upgrades. My 14 year old self needed Harmony Korine, The Offspring and Edward
Hopper, which as it happens was also what was immediately available to me. It appears that on one level
all products have corrupt or false roots; and their value is articulated in use, not by central lineage.
In the sci-fi novel Solaris, by Stanslaw Lem, the surface of the planet holds a living ocean that interacts
with visitors who come within its orbit. The planet taps into their subconscious, manifesting people,
objects, and animals that resonate from their past. It is in this sense that the forms of Solaris makes
apparent the fetish object; distilling a matrix of contradicting hopes, anxieties, and desires. For a moment
the fetish object allows these contradictions to be held in stasis, manifesting itself into a singular form that
the subject can at last enter into dialogue with. The fetish object becomes a site where a unique set of
relations are established. This is significant because ultimately, it is an interaction between a subject and
another part of themselves, an interaction that would otherwise be impossible.
-Ed Fornieles
Erin Jane Nelson, Node Crook (2016)
Inkjet on fabric, felted wool, embroidered patch, gel medium
90” x 72”
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Erin Jane Nelson, Node Crook (2016)
Inkjet on fabric, felted wool, embroidered patch, gel medium
90” x 72”
Installation view
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Body by Body, 13 Drawings + 1 Video, the Life and Work of Frenhofer (2015) (9:56)
Single stream video
Body by Body, 13 Drawings + 1 Video, the Life and Work of Frenhofer (2015) (9:56)
Single stream video
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Erin Jane Nelson, Eat me she rot (2016)
Inkjet on fabric, cast candy melts, cornflakes, curry powder, cardamom pods, cayenne pepper, pretzels, lavender, peppercorn.
42” x 57.5” x 19”
Erin Jane Nelson, Eat me she rot (2016)
Inkjet on fabric, cast candy melts, cornflakes, curry powder, cardamom pods, cayenne pepper, pretzels, lavender, peppercorn.
42” x 57.5” x 19”
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Installation view
Body by Body, The Flabby Angels – Let Joy Reign Supreme (2015)
Record, customized turn table
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Installation view
Body by Body, Impressions of Dublin (2014) (9:58)
Single stream video, cell phone video
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Fluxo | Features
Body by Body, Impressions of Dublin (2014) (9:58)
Single stream video, cell phone video
Body by Body, Impressions of Dublin (2014) (9:58)
Single stream video, cell phone video
http://www.ofluxo.net/ready-to-drop-springsteen-gallery-w-bradford-kessler-body-by-body-and-erin-jane-nelson/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Sex Magazine | Art
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Erin Jane Nelson | LA Weekly | Arts
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5 ART SHOWS YOU SHOULD SEE IN L.A. THIS WEEK
By Catherine Wagley
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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How to clone a dog
The first thing you see when you walk up the flight of stairs leading to Favorite Goods gallery is an uneven tapestry
stretched across the front room, made of sweaters and used fabric. The tapestry, the work of artists Matt Endler and
Erin Jane Nelson, is called Doggy Daddy; it has some text printed on it about the cost and process of cloning a dog.
The text looks like the sort of poster you'd see stapled to a telephone pole. Most of the work in this group show
references both street life and domestic spaces. In a darkened side gallery, Pascual Sisto has projected footage of
palm trees blowing in the wind onto Venetian blinds. The blinds glow red, suggesting an apocalyptic sunset, or
perhaps a city on fire. 936½ Chung King Road, Chinatown; through Oct. 3. (323) 488-3287,
favoritegoodslosangeles.com.
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http://www.laweekly.com/arts/5-art-shows-you-should-see-in-la-this-week-5935037
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Erin Jane Nelson | Art Practical | Review
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100° City
By Jackie Im
May 5, 2015
When I was a child, I remember having distinct feelings of anxiety about the environment. Coming of age during the
time of Captain Planet, Ferngully, and the vaguely environmental video for Paula Abdul’s “Promise of a New Day,”
the stomach-churning sense of fear and a realization that, as a child, I couldn’t do much to halt or reverse the effects
of pollution is a sentiment that persists today. Of course, as an adult, those feeling are mixed with a kind of fatalism
as the Earth hurdles toward some end. The drought in California is not helping. The calamitous blizzards on the East
Coast aren’t helping either.
Such environmental anxieties pervade 100° City, a three-person exhibition by Jason Benson, Joel Dean, and Erin
Jane Nelson at City Limits in Oakland. Entering the foyer of the gallery, you see the gallery’s windows and glass
doors covered with black plastic and taped down with blue painter’s tape, looking like the exterior of a haunted
house. The walls and floor of the gallery are lined with gray, papery fabric, veined in a way that reminded me both of
the red weed that plagues Earth in Steven Spielberg’s telling of The War of the Worlds (2005) and of varicose veins.
The immersive installation made the normally sunny gallery space feel dank and alien, disrupting the common
gallery tropes of the white cube and the more recent Contemporary Art Daily chic of bright, even lighting. With a
keen sense of display and through the works themselves, Benson, Dean, and Nelson have created an exhibition that
prods at humanity’s place on Earth, what comes next, and what does “next” look like? “Will sinkholes form?”1
Coke Life cans teeter slowly around the gallery floor, flowers sprouting from their pull-tab mouths. Joel Dean’s
Earthlings (2015) pieces operate on oblong wheels with battery-powered robotics desperately trying to move them
forward. Playing on our human knack for personifying all things, Dean shrewdly casts these sculptures as cute,
almost reminiscent of Wall-E, yet in calling them “earthlings,” there’s something disturbing in these Coke Life cans:
a corporate cooption of natural and organic foodstuffs being left behind as humanity passes. There is a moment in
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road where the man and his son savor a can of Coca-Cola, an act that is so mundane yet
harmful to our health, and in this dystopia provides a kind of normalcy for the father, a reminder of a past life. These
gestures of normalcy are present in Dean’s untitled sculpture made of a glass jar containing two tiny machinelooking creatures powered by solar energy and equipped with light-sensing "eyes," as well as sensors to help them
avoid obstacles. Displayed as one would a bug in a jar, the robotic beings have leaves to munch on and holes to
breathe fresh air from. It’s an eerie proposal: If insects die out, will we treat and care for robots in the same way?
Jason Benson’s sculptures are decidedly creepier and horrific. His masked creatures take on alien forms, but come
emblazoned with hockey masks, a cue that reads them as human and also strongly referencing Jason Voorhees from
the Friday the 13th horror series. Like the famous masked antagonist, these sculptures seem reanimated, stiff yet
relentless. An untitled piece, with deer-like legs made of pipes, is coiled in wire and bungee cord, a Frankensteinlike animal brought back to life via technology. Another sculpture sits in an open cardboard box, clad in plaster with
a light fixture jutting out of its chest like the creature in Alien (1979). The piece is crudely made—it’s ugly and
creepy, plaster is spread unevenly, with rough-hewed, hooked appendages flanking either side—but it all serves to
underscore an exploration of bodies, mutation, and death. Pasted on a flap of the cardboard box, a text reads, “The
year of the death penalty,” while the sculpture also sports a dog tag stating, “Welcome to Earth, the epicenter of
abject cruelty.” It’s a damning sentiment that speaks to humans’ ability to cause harm to others, to animals, to the
environment.
http://www.artpractical.com/review/100-degree-city/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Art Practical | Review
Erin Jane Nelson. How Acidic Is Your Body?, 2015 (detail); cable-knit sweater, inkjet print on cotton, beeswax, spirulina tablets,
almonds, embroidered patch; 30" x 23" 3". Courtesy of the Artist and City Limits, Oakland.
In How Acidic Is Your Body? (2015), Erin Jane Nelson mines the anxiety of toxicity and deficiency. Nelson fixes and
stiffens an oatmeal-colored knit sweater with sloppy pools of dried beeswax. Undermining its coziness, she points to
first-world consumers’ interest in a more natural lifestyle—the Goop lifestyle, if you will.2 Stuck to the sweater are
almonds, a nutritionally dense food, and there are spirulina tablets, a dietary supplement that is high in amino acids.
There is also the clipping of a fear-mongering quiz asking “How acidic is your body?” and a lifehack suggesting the
use of tampons to check for leaking sewage. Bringing these elements together, Nelson prods at the kind of
manipulative clickbait that gets people to blindly follow a lifestyle brand without thought of the ramifications.
In the quilt piece Earth Animal (2015), Nelson stiches on a print of a flier that reads, “Art won’t save the world.”
Couple that sentiment with studies of the human impact on the planet and it seems clear that humans can’t—and
won’t, either. While fatalistic, 100° City is not a wholly ominous show. There is a black, absurd humor that pervades,
pointing at our foibles, where humans are hypocritical and where we perhaps foolishly try to save ourselves. The
show is not easy to view: Works are either on the floor or hung low, forcing you to stoop down, to become base.
The press release, written by Dean and Nelson, is a poetic list of questions that both illuminates and obfuscates
subject matters: “Will sinkholes form,” “Did Phyllis hang herself,” “Is brown the new green,” and so on. 100° City
seeks to challenge, to draw people into these messy conversations about anxiety, about the effects we have on the
Earth and our powerlessness to effect change.
100º City is on view at City Limits, in Oakland, through May 9, 2015.
http://www.artpractical.com/review/100-degree-city/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Newcity Art | Art Reviews
Eye Exam: Stand in the Sun
By Matt Morris
Erin Jane Nelson. “Monk Behind Bars,” 2015
Inkjet on cotton, cotton, embroidered patches, wool batting, silk ribbon, garden lining fabric, grommets
I’ve really only been making photographs for the past couple of years, and thinking seriously about
their medium for an even briefer span. What began as a lighthearted impulse to get men to undress for
me was challenged into a more cogent form through recognizing the violence of the cropping frame on
eroticized bodies (see Kobena Mercer), the draining echo chamber of the photograph’s reproduction
(see Sherrie Levine), and the image and its circulation’s complicity in capital (see Hito Steyerl). Last
month, when I tried to get a roll of film developed at this or that drugstore, none still had that
equipment (“We just took our developing machine out yesterday,” one clerk told me); this older
accessibility to the medium of photography is nearly extinct, succeeded by even more broadly used
means of iPhone cameras, selfies, dick pics, Instagram and Google image search. We find ourselves in a
torrent (all meanings of the word) of image production, and yet their reliability to represent has been
utterly compromised (see David Joselit in the February Artforum linking the Staten Island grand jury’s
failure to indict the policeman who murdered Eric Garner to the visual evidence—video footage of a
brutal cop pile-on—failing to be allowed to represent these bodies and their violences).
http://art.newcity.com/2015/04/02/eye-exam-stand-in-the-sun/
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Erin Jane Nelson | Newcity Art | Art Reviews
If all these frameworks seem to take the fun out of photography, they don’t. With the photo stripped
of its credentials to prove or bear witness, it can be used to speak to its own condition of being made—
a self-reflexivity that knows its limits and its capacities for laden pleasure seeking. And whether in
modes chemical or digital, the effect of production is an elemental engagement between a body and
light: the artist manipulating light beams in her darkroom, the street documentarian stalking by day, or
the cool glow of the computer screen backlighting the image as it is edited into its final form. If you’re
watching “Scandal,” you’re used to Olivia Pope’s hope for an alternative to political dirty dealings,
where she invites us to “stand in the sun” with her. I’m looking for the artistic ethical equivalent
where, rather than presuming what image-objects should evidence, makers and viewers can stand in
the sun.
Risking “a quite ludicrous analog nostalgia” that Steyerl and Claire Bishop have attributed to
anachronistic resistance to the Internet’s degraded image banks, Jessica Labatte’s exhibition
“Underwater Highway” at Western Exhibitions moves deftly between studio photography, darkroom
alchemy and Photoshop toolboxes. The resultant images are dense and satisfying, in part because they
do little more than aestheticize the processes by which they are realized. The “Pond Weeds” are
carnivalesque (all meanings of the word) color photographs that play like Francis Bruguière’s cut paper
abstractions further abstracted through multiple exposures and shifting light sources. Here, Labatte
shows herself entangled in the seaweedy lagoon of a century’s worth of experimental photo
techniques, and her discerning taste and jubilant instincts cut across traditional forms. Her “Spotting”
works are labor-conscious, Marxist fantasias; their busy scribbled surfaces the result of making visible
layers of her assistants’ spot editing in Photoshop. Most earnest are the small silver gelatin prints titled
for the mineral deposits bonded to the surface through chemical emulsion processes (“Turquoise,”
“Hematite & Black Tourmaline”). Labatte’s retreat-to-move-forward reflections are physicalized in
brooding little sheets that show the artist getting the earthy real world to attach to the picture.
Erin Jane Nelson. “Premium 8 Panel Exercise Pen,” 2015
dog playpen, hummingbird feeders, porcelain bottles, quilt, aluminum prints, carabineers
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Erin Jane Nelson | Newcity Art | Art Reviews
Erin Jane Nelson’s junk-shot candor at Document drags and drops the excesses of too many tabs open
in a browser into a delightfully charged physical treatment of images. Her street photography that
records her daily West Coast commutes are embedded into an installation of quilts and cages. Nelson’s
work cozies up to discomforting depictions of how workers’ conditions have followed those of the jpeg:
hyper-mobile, disposable, replicable, virtually temporary. These are story quilts depicting the
harrowing edge of post-Internet art (see Artie Vierkant’s “The Image Object Post-Internet”): how
we’ve learned from our own technologies new, spectacular ways to devalue the social-public and
individuals who mark out relations within networks. Nelson’s Sanford-Biggers-punk-house-home-décor
are reminiscent of the ways Luis Molina queerly decorated his half of a prison cell in Héctor Babenco’s
“Kiss of the Spider Woman.”
Speaking of networks, Adds Donna has tapped theirs, currently hosting a group show of works by the
collective of artists who operate Essex Flowers, a great project space in New York’s Lower East Side,
located in the basement of a flower shop. I love everything about this space, and one of Flowers’ own,
Kendra Jayne Patrick, has curated a bright assortment that ranges from monochrome painting to cast
silicone body parts. Nearly all the works are lovable, but several in particular—especially through their
relations to one another—cast a light (ha) on how to approach imagining images.
Tatiana Kronberg’s photogram rests in the corner where wall meets floor, its surface alive and kicking
with a woman’s limbs akimbo, adorned with botanical laurels silhouetted in white against a glossy
black field. The nonchalance of her crumpled display shows women doing it for themselves, against a
history of these sorts of female-body-as-object photographic imprints in more austere works like Yves
Klein’s or Robert Rauschenberg’s cyanotypes. Lizzie Wright’s nearby bricolage shrines “Venus” and
“Bachelor” complete the scene with each emanating their own light sources. The two might be in
competition to illuminate Kronberg’s lady-wraiths. “Venus” is a sweet but unsentimental totem with
seashell nightlights serving both as a mermaid’s brassiere and mismatched glowing eyes in an oval glass
face; as seen in Magritte’s 1934 “Le Viol (The Rape),” there’s power, charm and wit in conflating the
gaze with erogenous body parts. Weird faces, new sights and particularly frameworks for how women
look (all meanings of the verb) occur throughout the exhibition, including Heather Guertin’s goofy,
grim abstracted facial expressions. Amanda Friedman’s “Timekeepers” mark out mystical eyes across
all sorts of metal lids and discs, an extensive calendar of the artist’s aging, looking back at her from a
densely painted, crowded array.
“Whoever is an image is an object. Whoever is not an image raise their hand. Images have permeated
our environments since [a] long time ago. They crossed screens and incarnated: as junkspace, and all
sorts of 3D spam. They materialised in form of our own bodies… So it’s not about object-ontologies but
image-actions, image-gestures, thing-affinities, chains of reaction of objects, forces, and pixels, that
manifest in scars and bruises, but also sometimes in the liquid harmony of the floating world of
images.” So said Hito Steyerl in a 2013 interview for Rhizome. So if image-actions don’t prove, don’t
represent, what do these shows show them doing? It seems they bury (under mineral dust and untamed
consumer associations). They reinvent what it means for the camera to capture, not to document but
to ensnare in the tenuousness of a rat-race, hamster-wheel, freelance economy. They make their own
light and sunbathe across themselves. They scuttle from darkrooms and even darker rooms, out into
the sun, where Photoshop fictions, multiple exposures, double-takes and reconfigurations of figures are
a more flexible and functional form of truth.
Jessica Labatte shows at Western Exhibitions through April 25, 845 West Washington.
Erin Jane Nelson shows at Document through April 25, 845 West Washington.
“Being Essex Flowers” on view at Adds Donna through April 19, 4223 West Lake.
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Erin Jane Nelson | SFAQ | Reviews
CITY LIMITS: MAKING SPACE, FLAT
FILES, AND MYSTIC PIZZA
LEORA LUTZ— FEBRUARY 18, 2015
On the fringe of an industrial neighborhood in Oakland is City Limits—a gallery owned, operated, and
curated by Evan Reiser and Stephanie Rohlfs, both recent graduates of San Francisco Art Institute. In
January the gallery mounted a show called Making Space—a group exhibition to launch their new flat files
and online shop. The exhibition featured large scale work by artists as well as examples of what could be
found in the flat files and online. They now have a group show up called Mystic Pizza. I have been
frequenting their shows since they opened this location in May 2013, and wanted to ask them a few
questions about how they work as curators.
LL: In regard to your curating process, do you approach new shows with trust and show work that
has not been seen until installation? Can you speak a little bit about this immediacy, as opposed
to selecting work already shown or created before proposing the show?
ER: One of the few prerequisites for showing at City Limits is that the work is brand new. And even if it
was made a year prior, it can’t have been exhibited elsewhere. I think this creates a unique experience for
visitors to the gallery. If you’re already familiar with the artist, you’re at least walking in to something
different. There is little mediation between the artists’ concept and execution. Artists rarely behave in a
linear, expected fashion. It’s always fun, as a curator, to be surprised, because that means that surprise
will probably be shared by our audience.
SR: It’s a little of both. We show new work at City Limits, so we are definitely seeing the pieces come to
fruition at the same time the artists do. I think, as we are both artists ourselves, we do approach the artists
with trust. Things shift frequently, but we are always open to being convinced. We’ve been fortunate to
work with an amazing list of artists, and we would rather be the kind of curators who edit than the kind of
curators who dictate.
Erin Jane Nelson, “Poto (Banilla),” 2014. Silver gelatin contact print. 16 x 20 inches.
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LL: Gallery flat files are nothing new. I think of Pierogi in New York, for example, which has been
showing flat file works in exhibitions since the mid-1990s, and in 2009 launched the “no white
gloves required” online version. Of course, people have been selling things online for longer than
that . . . and art has followed suit. Would you say that the acceptance of buying art online is
growing or has it hit a height? What are your thoughts on the business pros and cons (if any) of
selling art online?
ER: City Limits essentially works with new artists for every show. Meanwhile, among the dozens of artists
I’ve worked with, only a few have had gallery representation at the time of their show. Stephanie and I
both have day jobs and our own art careers, and we don’t have the time or resources to provide full
representation. The flat files and online shop seem like a good compromise. It’s a market for artists and
works we really believe in, and it’s accessible both in person for local collectors and online for those afar.
SR: There are a few reasons. First, [the flat file is] a way for us to reach out and work with more artists.
There’s only so much room on the walls, but a flat file program can be a lot broader. And of course, it’s a
way for us to hopefully increase the gallery’s income (we don’t have any funding other than what we
generate). But because the program has such a low overhead we hope this can provide greater financial
support to the artists through flat file and online sales.
As for the online shop, we wanted to increase our audience. We get a lot of long-distance traffic to our
website from people who will probably never come to the gallery, so this gives them a way to interact with
the work. Evan and I both strongly believe in the work being done locally and are excited to share it with a
larger audience. At the same time, I wanted to bring in some non-local artists whose work was part of a
similar conversation.
I definitely think that acceptance of buying art online is growing. (To be honest, even as someone
operating an online store, I still feel I’m not quite used to the idea.) I think the major concern for me was
presenting the work in a way that is consistent with how we show work at the gallery, and to not diminish
the quality of the pieces somehow by putting them online. But I think it’s important to remember that the
online store can also operate as a way for people to hear about the program and then come check it out
in person. I also want to say that our flat files are a little bit different than the usual catalog of prints and
drawings. Anyone who came to the flat files launch show got to see sculpture, video, and installation in
addition to some really strong drawing and collage work, and we are happy to keep that variety going in
the files themselves.
LL: That all really makes sense and to make a show catered to the flat file concept focuses your
intentions. I want to ask about the curatorial decision for the current show, Mystic Pizza. The
press release cites the funk movement as a departure point for the show: “a celebrated but
clearly antiquated legacy.” One wonders if it is warranted to note a movement as “antiquated,”
which implies that there are no longer fresh ideas brewing in that legacy ready to re-emerge. An
additional disclaimer in the press release notes that the artists’ funk influences differ, although it
is not necessarily an objective that artists in a group show come to such agreement. Where does
the importance lie for you to compare with other Bay Area art movements?
ER: The cultural legacies in the Bay Area sometimes seem so impossibly distant from the realities of the
Bay Area today, and even the art world of today. Many artists have moved away, and there are now
generational gaps and interstices. I’m not sure the Mystic Pizza show helped bridge any divides, but I
hope it was an interesting context in which to view the exhibition.
My research and historical context instincts deflate. I do read press releases and have written hundreds of
them over the years. The best ones always operate beyond the traditional marketing tool. They can serve
as something poetic as well as informative and help viewers see the work differently. Searching for a
thread here, the bottom line is the gallery’s position that these artists are making some of the freshest
work in the Bay Area. Seemingly a bit self-aggrandizing, the language troubles me as an art writer who is
expected to come to some similar conclusion or argue against such. Yet I admire the gumption without
waiting for media “permission” to state that the work is the “most innovative” the Bay has to offer today.
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Erin Jane Nelson | SFAQ | Reviews
They are dangerous words. Regardless, Lisa Rybovich Crallé’s strange shapes seem to be dance poses
that allow close engagement, while Tamra Seal’s monumental stone-like sculpture holds formal forte.
Delicate curves meticulously align in the intimate abstract black ink drawings of Courtney Johnson, which
counterbalance Scott Hewicker’s large scale and colorful still-life tableau of books, ornate teapots,
vessels, and other assorted domestic objects. All weird, all very now.
Luckily, City Limits is championing a visual language, distinct to their curatorial voice. The Bay Area has
long been haven for the freaks and geeks, the rogue writers and the misfit inventors, the queer and the
prospecting. With that, I agree that the group is a batch of “weirdos” as the press release notes. Not
because of their personalities, but because of the curiosity and awe that their work conjures, funk or not.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Art in America | Previews
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U:L:O at Interstate Projects
by Nick Irvin
During the summer's usual glut of group shows, it's always refreshing when an art space treats the format less as a
mandate and more as a generative opportunity. This summer, Interstate Projects is embracing this challenge. Run by
gallerists Tom Weinrich and Jamie Sterns, the Bushwick gallery is currently in the middle of debuting "U:L:O," an
annual, six-week curatorial program inviting emerging artists and curators to organize concurrent group shows in
three very different environments.
"U:L:O" is named for Interstate's three spaces: the upper room, which is a roomy white cube; the lower space,
comprising a comparatively unfinished basement; and outside, which is an open-air concrete courtyard. The
program pairs a curator or curating group with each space.
"Interstate is unique for a younger gallery because it's so large. We want to share that space with our peer group,"
Jamie Sterns told A.i.A. According to Sterns, "U:L:O"'s objective is to "create a convergence of what is happening
‘now' within various art groups." Its curators and artists come from around the country—a long-standing
commitment of Interstate's programming.
This year, "U:L:O" is occurring in two sessions. "U:L:O: Part I," which closes July 13, is organized by artists who
run (or have recently run) galleries outside of New York, and who work with "overlapping communities of artists
with shared aesthetics and themes," according to Sterns. Visitors first encounter Zachary Davis's outdoor show
"Infinite Border," which features installations by Sol Hashemi, Sara Ludy and Cameron Rowland so discreetly
woven into their courtyard environment that it's hard to pin down exactly where they start and finish. According to
Davis (formerly a curator of Appendix, a now-closed project space in Portland, Ore.), he "wanted works that could
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Erin Jane Nelson | Art in America | Previews
appear to mobilize the entire built environment around them, or, alternately, disappear. That it was the gallery's
entry and exit area too seemed to fit." Passage, permeability, and disappearance do unify these works' effects.
Rowland's contribution, a disconnected power conduit hanging high above Interstate's entryway, is essentially
camouflaged within the courtyard's Bushwick brutalism; in a far corner, Ludy projects a video which, during the
daylight of visiting hours, is so slightly visible that it seems a hallucinatory impression. Hashemi's piece is the most
concrete and elaborate of the three. It runs a wire along the far wall of the courtyard and through several situations:
on one end, the wire dangles a container of coffee beans into a heat vent, in the middle it runs through a log slice
propped up by metal armatures, and on the other end it is weighed down by some of the courtyard's potted plants.
Passing from the courtyard to the interior, in the upper space is "Now Feel Bad," a much louder exhibition organized
by Chicago gallery Queer Thoughts. Jared Madere contributes parts of a Suzuki racing motorcycle resting on a
flower-strewn tarp, along with a refrigerator that, when opened, turns out to be full of acrid mold. Looming over the
bike are two metallic prints by Darja Bajagić, which appropriate images from a pornography website. In one, a
squinting, smiling woman looks down at the viewer, exposing her breasts. In the other, the same woman looks down
with the same expression, pointing a plastic submachine gun at the viewer.
Downstairs is Oakland gallery Important Projects' "psy•cho•so•mat•ic•ad•dict•in•sane," packing sculptural and twodimensional works from 13 artists into the basement. Of particular note are Eric Veit's three glass tea kettles,
steeping materials like rose and ginseng with goat knuckles and fingernails; as well as a flat-lying quilt by Erin Jane
Nelson, "Princess Loko" (2014), which incorporates photography, clipart, and stitched-in earbuds.
"U:L:O: Part II," which will run from July 18 through August 3, will feature very different artistic communities, as
well as a thematic focus on archives. CAVE, a collectively organized exhibition space in Detroit, is filling the
courtyard more robustly than Davis: their show, "Paper for the Sky," will expose works on paper from 41 artists to
the elements, enacting a kind of anti-conservation. Blonde Art Books, a New York publishing organization run by
Sonel Breslav, will turn the basement into a cinema that will screen a "preview reel" of trailers made for books,
featuring 11 previews in all. The corresponding publications will also be on display.
Lastly, New York artist Ben Gocker will present "INSIDE OUT," featuring Jamel Shabazz and Armand
Schaubroeck—two artists whose work deals with their lives' involvement with the American prison system.
According to Gocker, "for Schaubroeck, that means taking the harrowing experience of his incarceration and turning
it into art and music; for Shabazz it means being a vigilant observer of his workplace and creating a document of
that time in his life and in the lives of all those he worked beside as a corrections officer." "INSIDE OUT" will
feature music, paintings, and ephemera from Schaubroeck's experience of the late 1960s and early ‘70s, including
his quadrophonic, 1975 triple-LP rock opera A Lot of People Would Like to See Armand Schaubroeck...DEAD, as
well as never-before-exhibited photographs by Shabazz documenting the African American community throughout
New York in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
Destroying Erin Jane Nelson's Closet of Shit
July 2, 2014
By Kyle Laidig
When I first encountered Erin Jane Nelson’s work I was confused. Her work is disparate: everything from
flirtations with experimental Japanese theatre to meditation videos and even a foray into the construction
of bird toys. What really blew me away though were her photographic collages. They feel at turns both
intimate and highly abrasive, quiet and humble compositions often sheathed in vibrant plexiglass. There is
little regard for the “sanctity” of the image, heavily manipulated, and yet the work is reverent to the look of
traditional film photography. The spirit of Erin’s work emanates from within these discrepancies, these
seeming contradictions.
Having grown up in in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, Erin subsequently moved to New York City to study at
the Cooper Union. Upon graduating she moved to Oakland, CA, where she lives and works today. I sat
down with Erin recently to discuss attitude, the archive, and the Big Apple.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
VICE: So why did you leave New York?
Erin Jane Nelson: I moved to New York a week after I turned 18 after living in the suburbs my whole life.
Obviously the change was really distinct and intense. I simply did not understand the ways in which art is
hugely social, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. It quickly became apparent that I was way
behind the curve in terms of my knowledge of contemporary art—I only really understood it through this
teen-girl LiveJournal identity that was so fantasy-based. I knew that I wanted to grow from being in New
York, but I felt ill prepared to fit into an accepted mold, even though I tried. But I also felt ill-prepared to be
resistant; I didn’t feel I had the language or the self assurance. I’m almost 25, and I feel as though I am
just now able to get back to a groove with my work that feels great. I have a routine life where I spend
most of my free time making things. I have an amazing small core of peers in Oakland, and without them I
would probably still be very confused and aimless in my making and identity.
So leaving New York was related to a need for control over your engagement with both cultural
and social stimuli?
I definitely knew I needed space from it. Lately I’ve been feeling ready to engage in a more global or
"tapped-in" space again. I feel that I need access to more immediate culture, even if the social aspects of
it continue to give me anxiety, I feel better equipped to process those feelings and not let it dampen my
studio practice. When you’re young and you end up in a competitive environment your identity, becomes
about style, attitude, bravery. I feel like what I produced from within that atmosphere was tepid and boring.
I spent a lot of time being scared but hungry. I do not feel that way anymore. I’m also not 19 anymore. I
think trying to be young and learn while also getting to know New York bred a lot of anger and energy in
me that I’ve been processing through imagery and language. I try to do this with the least degree of
blame, but sometimes I feel like a huge hater.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
Haters don’t make anything. You seem interested in the creative possibilities of destruction. You
described your collages to me as the result of slowly destroying your personal archive of images.
Can you talk to me about your interest in archival practice, both personal and professional? You
work as an archivist for Fraenkel Gallery.
In my personal work, ideas of the archive have become less present, or rather the aesthetic of the archive
as I think it’s understood. I can think of two shows I saw in New York that had a major impact on how I
was thinking about the archive: one was WACK!, which was the huge feminist survey at PS1, and the
other was Archive Fever, which was at the International Center of Photography. Both of those shows
happened my first year at school. Politicizing an archive to me seems like an interesting domain.
Incidentally, I ended up digitally archiving as a job, I don’t quite know how it happened. Throughout my
life, it has been important to learn as much as I can. Similarly, an archive can be a way of having a
tangible body of information. A lot of what I do with archiving is about knowing how to access huge
amounts of visual information at one time which, for me, is related more to ideas around big data, the
economy of downloaded information more than it is about a sensitive room filled with manila folders.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
Yeah, it’s more about a networked understanding of the world. You see your collage work as a
means of destroying your personal archive?
Sure. The work that I am making now is essentially mining things I shot as a student. When I left NYC two
years ago, I sold all of my film cameras. I very much quit photo. My book with Nick Gottlund was
published in 2012, and was this sort of sad photo essay about the West. Very much like, “Here’s where
I’m going, don’t try to find me.” I was moving around a lot and didn’t have the means of producing new
projects. I had a point and shoot digital camera and my laptop, and I was feeling all the things you feel
when you dramatically leave a place and you begin looking back at your own work, condensed onto a
computer screen. Even after being away from a photo scene in New York for two or three months, I very
quickly felt like I didn’t understand my own work anymore, or wasn’t connected to it. So I started
reprocessing those things through various filters, literal and conceptual. The collages started out being
very much about reworking iPhone photos and digital point and shoot photos, stuff that had a very
different look. Digital to digital was not that exciting to me, but at a certain point, I started working on the
film photos. It felt more rich taking on this mode that I really believed in at one point in my life, the film
photograph.
And then inverting the process.
Yeah. I don’t feel like that’s a radical gesture, it’s something that’s been done with photo and that’s
happening now in a major way. It’s important to me that I’m not just developing a copy-and-paste-ready
shtick and that it’s a constantly evolving process. I really want the work to be about a performed or timebased process. It morphs a lot. Initially, when I first got these printed, they were being produced as digital
negatives on acetate and made into contact prints onto silver gelatin paper. So they were starting as
negatives and ending as positives produced from new negatives. In the end product, you’ll see what is
very obviously the magic wand tool with literal dust and scratches from the darkroom. It takes a long time
to get to the place you need to be with a thing, at least for me, so then I started hanging them behind
pieces of colored plexi which was like another means of filtering the information. And I’m happy with
that—but now I’m quilting with photos, I really want to make these sculptural slipcases with photos.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
The work seems to be about the image filtration and the synthesis of a variety of well established
visual languages.
I’m interested in how material histories conform or clash both away from keyboard and on the net. I like
blending the aesthetics of a software, of traditional film photo, of graphic design and drawing and blending
them all together. It’s really easy to find a mode for which there already exists a cultural norm, find your
allies within that history and fit the bill. I’m more interested in finding ways of subverting that and finding a
domain that feels more lonely, if that makes sense.
It sounds like you are looking for new forms through a process of active rejection.
Yeah, that’s a recent change in attitude. I want to make work that people can access, that has always
been a goal for me. This is pretty personal, but about a year ago I was violently attacked in broad daylight
by two teenagers. Since then my work has become deeply antagonistic, and I have been interested in
violence as a means of producing work. Not that my pieces looks violent, but my thinking around how
make something engage a viewer or command attention has shifted enormously.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
It seems like color is very important to you. What is the relationship you see between this
antagonistic perspective and the excision of color from your work?
Color is one of my first loves in life. My mother thought I was OCD as a child because I would color
organize everything. Color in the production of photography can also quickly shift the read of a work to be
about things like sentimentality, lifestyle, affect—which is not necessarily what I’m interested in people
getting from my work. Color is seductive and super sensuous and I love it, but I think when you are so
intoxicated by a thing you need to make sure you are dealing with it in mediation. The black and white
collages are originally produced in color and then there is a moment when I flatten it. It’s like in the
cartoons. When the cartoon character is sad all the color drains from it, that’s kind of what is happening
with the work. It’s funny and lovable and then it gets drained.
Is the cartoon character you then? How do you deal with your inherent subjectivity as an artist?
I like to pretend that everything I make is not purely diaristic or about my subjectivity. I have always had
immense respect for artists who also run spaces or do publications, because I’ve always wanted to feel
that pull or tug of generosity. I love my network of friends but I am an inherently antisocial person, and
what I feel is produced by antisocial behavior is a completely myopic, self-obsession—especially when
you get to look out into the world through a screen, and that your participation with that networked screen
is so quantifiable. I think there is a lot of work by women being produced now which is about a type of
Internet-produced ego and it becomes very much about their body and performance and their
appearance. That is absolutely not my mode and will probably never be, however some of those attitudes
are very related to what I feel and what I identify as my subjectivity.
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Erin Jane Nelson | Vice | United States
On the subject of performance, do you see your images as being done or rather continuously
opening up into other things? Your work takes form in a variety of mediums; is interdisciplinary
practice crucial to your work?
I had this epiphany in school. It’s an analogy, which I haven’t shared before because I don’t like
analogies. I like to speak plainly and directly so this is a rare analogy. I have two, actually. I thought a lot
about what I was doing sculpturally or even with images as building a closet, which you pull things out of
and you put things back into. And this is also linked to the archive, there's always this closet of shit ready
to be dropped out at any moment, for any need. I don’t like to think of work made over time as linear, I
like circling back to objects and ideas.
The second metaphor is related to my grandparents. I’m very close with them and they now live in the
mountains in New Mexico. They work at the Santa Fe Opera as docents. So as a young person I was
introduced to opera and have since volunteered at the opera house sometimes in the summer. I’ve
always appreciated that form of cultural production. The german description is kind of true; the
gesamtkunstwerk, the ultimate work of art. It’s visual, it’s musical, it’s acting, it’s dancing, it’s all of those
things in one form. The over-the-top empathetic qualities of opera and the effect of watching an opera
has been enormously influential to me and my art production. Even if it’s not a play with singing or a
dance with a set, but that everything can exist in an operatic or maximalist way. The ways in which
mediums become compartmentalized and ghettoized is purely economical and institutional, it’s not
actually how I think people want to naturally make. I think the more that one is able to open up to the
possibilities of making work operatic the more gratification there is to be found.
Erin Jane Nelson is an artist and writer living in Oakland, California. She graduated from the Cooper
Union School of Art in 2011 and has also studied at Malmö Art Academy in Sweden and Ox-bow in
Michigan. Recently, her work has been exhibited at Interstate Gallery (Brooklyn), Jancar Jones Gallery
(Los Angeles), Heaven Gallery (Chicago), and Important Projects (Oakland).
Kyle Laidig is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. You can follow him on Tumblr
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