Nate Lowman’s Green Escalade explodes onto the wall with the iconic “pop” of Roy Lichtenstein and the multivalent richness of Andy Warhol. The resonance with these modern masters appears visually reinforced as Lowman reprises Lichtenstein’s Ben-Day Dots which he applies onto a seductive pistachio cream background via silkscreen a la Warhol. The bullet hole series- arguably the artist’s most iconic and already a canonized contemporary classic—continues Lowman’s abiding interest in transmuting the detritus of popular culture, including taxi cab air fresheners and smiley face stickers, into conceptually dynamic and aesthetically captivating works of art. Lowman gleaned inspiration for the painting from the bullet hole magnets that appear as kitschy decorations on cars throughout America, evoking associations to comic book graphics, film noir and Hollywood gangster imagery.
The minimalist aesthetic of Green Escalade belies the conceptual complexity undergirding the painting, which wrestles with many of the predominant concerns negotiated throughout the history of modern art including issues of spatial representation, interrogations of the hierarchies of taste and the possibilities of appropriation. These magnets, mini "works of art" in their own right—like the illustrations on pulp fiction covers that served as the basis for Richard Prince’s Nurse paintings—have been appropriated and transformed by Lowman, elevated from the pedestrian to the world of fine art. Lowman recapitulates the bullet hole—whose cavernous center visually consecrates negative space—as a patently flat artwork that refutes any suggestion of depth or illusion. By magnifying the miniscule motif to a slightly larger than human proportion, the artist reveals his singular ability to transform the decorative into the menacing, forceful and irreverent.
Utilizing a gritty cartoon aesthetic, Lowman’s bullet holes explore America’s enduring legacy of violence that percolates beneath the veneer of white picket fences and starry bunting flags. Simultaneously, however, the bullet hole maintains its associations to its original form, whose void-like center tenders an ominous portal into another world. Green Escalade offers a neo-punk examination of the meaning and aesthetic of Pop art in the current era, presenting an expression that is equally American and iconic as the masterpieces produced by the first vanguard of Pop legends some fifty years ago, but decidedly more cynical and melancholic. This cultural context is edifying but not necessary in order to appreciate the painting—for however one elects to understand it conceptually, it is inarguably a powerful art object that strikes viewers with the visceral impact of a gunshot.