Harper’s is pleased to present Scattered, Nick Lowe’s second exhibition with the gallery. Blurring the line between drawing and painting, Nick Lowe’s new series continues his own exploration of mark-making through a deconstruction of his own practice. Inspired by the work of Alan Saret, Rose Wylie, and William Anastasi, Lowe uses raw canvas covered with a translucent layer of matte medium so that his materials interact directly with the warmth of the raw canvas. In doing so, Lowe imbues his marks with a greater sense of immediacy creating an impressionistic effect due to their enhanced lightness and delicacy. The exhibition opens Saturday, May 27, 5–8pm, with a reception attended by the artist.
At first, I wanted to call my show Crumb Drawings—I liked the way it sounds and the way it looked on the page. When I make oil pastel drawings, little bits flake off the paper, and I tend to shake them off into an old hummus container—although a yogurt or salsa container will also work so long as it has a lid. I’ve been doing this since I started using oil pastels, but only last year did I start actually storing oil pastel crumbs for possible future use. I always strive to repurpose and preserve all aspects of the creative process, it’s a habit that likely originates from my experience with collage. In some cases, I’ve found that the discarded materials from my process end up being more intriguing than the finished work. I always try to get away from my initial intention and work with materials that I didn’t plan on starting with: crumbs, scraps, and remnants, etc… all of these are my stock in trade. Working with what’s left in the fridge instead of making a trip to the store.
When I draw with pencils, I like to press really hard. While this is part of my practice, it can create problems, not only because my lead breaks, but also because I use only the finest and most vibrant color pencils that money can buy. So, I feel the need to save each piece that breaks off. Interestingly, I have found that pinching these fragments with my fingers gives just enough grip to draw; however, it alters the nexus of control around my marks and lines. I enjoy creating a set of parameters and introducing an element of unpredictability as it relates to the marks I am able to make, engaging a type of chance operation that I can then go back in and edit. Working on raw canvas requires an acute awareness of negative spaces. It forms little ‘no-go zones’ that act as sanctuaries where nothing happens and yet these spaces are essential to letting everything coalesce into a composition. The choice of where not to make a mark, where to remain silent, becomes just as consequential as where to put a mark. My initial draw to painting was the forgiving nature of the medium- if a painting wasn’t working, you could hit the reset button and drop a layer of gesso or white paint over everything. With raw canvas, there’s an added intensity, an immediacy. There’s no easy way to fade or erase. It’s a challenging and thrilling commitment to permanence.
The idea of working on raw canvas first struck me when I saw a show of work by John McLaughlin at LACMA in 2017. Many of the paintings were made over a white ground which had yellowed over the years. I tried to imagine what they would have looked like in his studio on bright white backgrounds. Soon after, while looking through the permanent collection, I saw a painting by Morris Louis that had been done on raw canvas and I was struck by how it kept its color. Raw canvas is always kind of yellow and warm and I get the sense that this never changes. Visiting David Leapman’s studio also was an inspiration: he’s done a lot of direct works on raw canvas and would often talk excitedly about the canvas itself. I’ve been toying with working on raw canvas over the years but haven’t been able to figure out the right approach. Later that year, I saw a show of Rose Wylie’s paintings at the Serpentine Galleries in London which were also done directly onto raw canvas. As a material, it has so much natural beauty that it doesn’t need much added to it or it can be easily ruined. In this sense, I like how closely it relates to paper.
Nick Lowe (b. 1980, San Jose, CA) received a BFA from University of California, Los Angeles in 2002, and an MFA from University of California, Riverside in 2013. Lowe’s work has been the subject of solo presentations at Harper’s, Los Angeles (2022); Left Field Gallery, Los Osos, CA (2021); Grice Bench, Los Angeles (2017); Richard Telles Gallery, Los Angeles (2016); Marc Jancou Contemporary, New York (2010); and Black Dragon Society, Los Angeles (2007, 2004, and 2002). Most recently, he has participated in group exhibitions at Harper’s, Los Angeles (2023 and 2021); The Lodge, Los Angeles (2022 and 2020); The Pit, Glendale (2019 and 2017); and 356 Mission, Los Angeles (2014). His work is held in the collections of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Lowe lives and works in Los Angeles.