Untitled, 18X18 inches, acrylic on birch
This weekend, it might be hard to get out and see things; especially since so many galleries are closed for the holidays. The rest of the week is open, but if you want a quick fix of art on the walls, you might try a little bit of Lowbrow/Pop Surrealism by Mark S. Nelson at the Belmont Hotel. Though much of this kind of work has become main stream, Nelson adds to this art movement further dialog of images. I say main stream because, the last time I visited Omaha, the works by Neo Rauch, Carroll Dunham, and other artists had just came down at the Joslyn Art Museum. Plus you have the widely distributed Juxtapose Magazine featuring these Pop Surrealist artists.
Not to compare Nelson to works by Rauch and Dunham, because I would associate Nelson with the second generation group of artists that used the street as their canvas as much as their studio spaces. A generation that has been inspired by tattoos as much as Dali or Magritte. I see a great deal of similarities to Margaret Kilgallen’s and Barry McGee’s work. Nelson, Kilgallen, and McGee all seem to cultivate ideas from illustrations, homemade street ad designs, and a dream like simplistic quality that makes the work attractive. I can easily imagine any of these artists illustrating a cover of a They Might Be Giants album. But I would say Nelson is far more rooted in the traditional Surrealism masters of the early twentieth century. His dream imagery references a psychological internal struggle that was a hallmark trait of 1920’s Surrealism.
Nelson’s playful images of people are contrasted with the very introspective appearance of their facial expressions. His “Untitled” 18 by 18 inch acrylic on birch piece of staircase entering half of a woman’s face is like a display of the mind. We compartmentalize events with symbols of thoughts. We don’t store our memories like a computer or filing cabinet, but in metaphors and vague relationships, that when recalled become more of an expression of ourselves rather than a factual recall of events. Nelson is likely aware of some of the work neuroscientists have done on memory, because I can see this particular image very relevant to this kind of study.
Mark Shane Nelson is making work that I have slowly come to enjoy. I would visit places like Public Trust or Kettle Art and I would often feel a little uncomfortable because of the Illustration quality, but I have come around, though of late, I admit to enjoying Nelson’s kind of work. I am still a little fuzzy on where the lines can be drawn on Pop Surrealism, but that will come with time. The Belmont Hotel at 901 Fort Worth Avenue in Dallas will have Nelson up until December 11th.
ModernDallas.net for more images.