Through their ethnological pastiche, Nathan Mabry’s work combines references to art history, South American artefacts, and popular culture, to create provocative monuments entwining high culture, primitive ritual, and contemporary experience. In A Very Touching Moment (Pitching A Tent), Mabry’s figure – inspired by Pre-Columbian Moche sculpture, and suggestive of Rodin’s The Kiss – sits as a grotesque fertility totem atop a plinth reminiscent of the work of John McCracken or Donald Judd. Through juxtaposing these disparate forms, Mabry points to a totemic ascendancy, tracing a narrative lineage between ancient liturgy and modern day systems of museological value.
Nathan Mabry’s In Your Face series takes as its subject Aristide Mailol’s 1937 sculpture La Montagne. Photographed at The Sculpture Center in Cleveland, Ohio, this famous work is emblematic of the ideological coalescence between art, artifice, and nature. Shrouding the figure with a variety of novelty masks, Mabry appropriates the monument as a plinth for his own intervention. Literally using art history as a base for slap-stick humour, Mabry levels cultural hierarchy, disguising modern masterpiece as clownish impostor.
Like a DJ sampling music to define his own sound, Nathan Mabry openly borrows references from both modern and antiquated cultures to contrive sculptures that transcend time and place; falsifying a ‘super history’ tracing art evolution from its primal beginning to its portentous future. Mabry’s A Very Touching Moment (?) operates as a ‘cover version’ of Rodin, the tribal figure seated in the famous pose of contemplation. Both atavistic and cartoon-like, the totem is strangely retro-futuristic; an idea reflected in its plinth, which is a replica of Tony Smith’s Playground (1962).