Contemporary sculpture now

Nathan Mabry

new contemporary sculpture now: Nathan Mabry

LA artist Nathan Mabry serves up sculptural jokes ranging from the obvious - clowns' noses or comedy masks tied onto existing works of sculpture - to the recherché; puns that invoke both the history of western sculpture and ethnographic art by pairing modified elements of each.

In this way, various cultures and their values are undermined in a practice that is as likely to parody canonical works by the likes of John McCracken as it is to create saucily suggestive takes on ancient artefacts.

What It Is (The Old In and Out) (2008), for example, consists of two seated sculptures that mimic Pre-Columbian ceramics. Placed on top of replica Donald Judd tables cast in bronze, Judd's works become little more than display pedestals.

new contemporary sculpture now: Nathan Mabry

Further undermining the group as a whole, the fingers of each of the ceramic figures are locked into a lewd gesture - the 'in and out' of the work's title.

A similar strategy is at play in What It Is (Pitching the Tent) (2008, below left), in which one of the interlocked figures sports a highly visible erection.

Mabry's provocative iconoclasm with its heavy reliance on ribald punning and slapstick humour can be loosely associated with other LA artists such as Mike Kelley, the late Rason Rhoades and, of course, Paul McCarthy, who was Mabry's tutor at UCLA.

And like these artists, one of the strengths of Mabry's work is its ability to support a multitude of readings and contrary claims. It's equally feasible, for example, to view Mabry's practice as a coherent, incisive critique regarding reverence for the art object / totem, or opportunistic, wilfully insensitive gimmickry that quickly starts to wear thin.

As always, the fool's capacity for true wisdom is difficult to ascertain.

New contemporary sculpture: Nathan Mabry
images © Nathan Mabry

next: Manuela Leinhoss >

previous: Joe Winter >

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