Thierry Goldberg is pleased to present Form Destroyer, NH
DePass’ first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition runs from
March 18th through April 18th, 2021.
In NH DePass’ work there is disjuncture between old and new: a tension between craft and digital innovation. The artist uses classical techniques like hand sewing and carpentry while incorporating digital graphics and printing to create works that disturb historical and cultural timelines.
The foundation of DePass’ practice lies in his vintage graphic drawings, which are both individually framed and featured in many of the sculptures in Form Destroyer. The drawings are first rendered by the artist in black ink, then scanned and transformed digitally, screen-printed, and finally lightly colored and detailed with ink and marker. As in his drawings, DePass reflects on historically divergent modes of production through the manual construction of the wood cabinet sculptures in the exhibition. In the making of these sculptures, DePass forgoes the machine and focuses instead on 20th century craftsmanship. Additionally, the exhibition includes three canvases with screen-printed imagery sewn on by hand. These works, like the others in the exhibition, signal an odd mixture of contemporary and outmoded methods of making. The canvases and the six wooden sculptures are not only studies of technique, but are also ‘non-figurative’ portraits. These portraits command the show by presenting countless objects that hold clues into their namesakes’ lives – clues into their essences, rather than their physical appearances.
The six hand-fabricated sculptural works in Form Destroyer – William (2019), Elizabeth (2021), and Keith (2021), Gregor (2020), Emma (2019), and Nicholas - A Self-Portrait (2021) – are all unique portraits that resemble cabinets of curiosity rather than the traditional painted portrait. DePass’ novel cabinets are odes to their namesakes, filled with prized possessions and significant mementos, which imitate their subject’s interests, habits, and vices. Each tucked away object functions like a piece in a game of I Spy – and allows one to connect clues to form an idea of someone based on material objects. For instance, in Gregor (2020) one finds a collection of 8 balls, a pair of dice, a comb, leather dress shoes, a leather vest, suspenders, and Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. Through the collection of items, DePass’ portraits seek to capture the idiosyncrasies and unique personality of the individual, allowing one to construct an image and idea of Gregor in their mind. The interactive potential of the cabinets render and preserve Gregor’s essence, and therefore feel alive.
DePass’ chests honor the living as they visually and metaphorically resemble aboveground tombs. These structures act not as reminders of death, but as vessels meant to celebrate the individuals. This is aptly reminiscent of DePass’ surroundings in New Orleans, where the city’s iconic tombs and cemeteries are situated above ground, due to its elevation. Throughout the city, mausoleums stand like elegant homes for the dead in a similar way as DePass’ artworks stand in for the living.
The mid-century Modern design of DePass’ sculptures, along with their eccentric objects match the tenor of the artist’s drawings by toiling with vintage Americana. The drawings mimic American vintage logos and graphics, and feature many of the objects and icons that adorn DePass’ cabinets, such as hints of music and Wild West motifs. The bombardment of depictions of American rock-and-roll, cowboy life, and the precarity of living on the edge, are what make the artist’s works feel alive, yet haunted. Just like the antique-inspired aesthetic of the wood cabinets, the drawings’ use of graphics such as railways, vintage newspaper print, and ‘Jack and Jill’-esque characters, make these compositions seem like cryptic printed matter reflecting on the country’s romanticizing of a time past. This trippy sensation opens a portal into a digitally rendered critique of nostalgia for a simpler time and a pre-digital world.
In the way that DePass’ works negate the digital world and break normal of modes of production, they are ‘form destroyers.’ Accordingly, the ‘form destroyers’ from Philip K. Dick’s A Maze of Death make one second guess the function and nature of the object and question it’s true potential and meaning. Similar to the ‘form destroyers,’ DePass metaphorically breaks down the nature of an individual and represents their core in object form. This transfiguration is otherworldly, yet produced by an object-oriented society, and in effect, has allowed the artist to create his own portraits, or expressions, of human spirit.
NH DePass (b. 1990, New Orleans, LA) lives and works in New Orleans, LA. He holds a MFA from Pratt Institute of Fine Arts, Brooklyn, NY and a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), Savannah, GA. He is a 2021 Resident of the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans, LA. DePass’ work has been included in exhibitions at GNYP Gallery, Berlin, Germany; Public Gallery, London, United Kingdom; The Pit LA, Los Angeles, CA; and Mount Analogue, Seattle, WA, among others. This is his first exhibition with Thierry Goldberg Gallery.
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