Now Showing | Nick van Woert’s ‘No Man’s Land’

Feb 21, 2013 / by Erica Bellman / The New York Times Style Magazine

“No Man’s Land,” the sculptor and painter Nick van Woert’s first solo exhibition with OHWOW Gallery in Los Angeles, opens on Friday. The Nevada-born artist’s latest multimedia installation works address the frightening prospect that we might render the earth nearly uninhabitable. “Everything humans created was once made of monolithic materials: stone, wood, metal. Things just aren’t like that anymore,” van Woert says. “Many of the materials I use are substitutions for natural materials.” They include chlorine, orange soda, Muscle Milk, hair gel, cat litter and coal slag.

The post-apocalyptic terrain van Woert covers in “No Man’s Land” is expansive, and initially seems to lack a center. Each piece, however, addresses humans’ conflicting capacities for creation and destruction. The exhibition includes an 8-foot-tall set of silverware, with which van Woert intends visitors to “ingest” his works, alluding to the artist’s fascination with the unsustainable rate of human consumption.

Ten monochromatic paintings in earthy hues are van Woert’s nod to 19th-century landscape painting in the American West, an unexpected source of fodder for an aesthetic that’s far from romantic. “I often think of myself as a landscape painter,” van Woert says. “While growing up in places like the Yosemite Valley, I realized things have changed in our world, materially.” Van Woert examines this change, unhindered by contemporary notions of beauty. “The most challenging thing for me as an artist is to battle this conversation of what looks good and what works well,” he says. “I want to ask people to see my work as an entirely material language, rather than a visual one.”

No Man’s Land” will be on view at OHWOW Gallery, 937 North La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, through April 6.