New Partisan, along with affiliate and contributor Miranda Fine Art, presents Nick Savard’s solo gallery show, PEGGED, opening tomorrow in London. Savard is a New York based artist who incorporates photography, drawing and sculpture into his work. His most recent installation features wooden cones on a system of pulleys through which you view small, intricate drawings. If you’re in London, be sure to check it out. Details of the show, some examples and a brief essay on Savard’s work follow.
April 7 - 13 May 2006
The Glasshouse Gallery
2-3 Bull’s Head Passage, Leadenhall
Market, London, EC1
Nicholas Savard’s work is about history, the buildup of experiences which can never be shed, the material from which each man builds his personality.
Savard’s series of self-portraits explore the perception of a man based on his grooming. The artist has photographed himself, shirtless, always making a similar face. Different haircuts and facial hair configurations create certain recognizable social “types”. The photographs have a plain black background and the head and shoulders of the artist are unadorned with clothing or accessories. The only difference among the many photographs, purportedly, is in the haircuts. Savard wears many different cuts that bespeak different lifestyles, subcultures and outlooks: the mullet, a shaved head, a mohawk, a conservative slicked-back style, and many other styles. The project echoes August Sander’s Faces of Our Time series, but by using only one model, himself, the artist shows that such types are a fiction created by the viewer.
The hair photos are meant to be a comment on what people see and how they judge when they look at a person. However, this is not the only, and perhaps ultimately not even the primary, way that these works succeed and affect the viewer. Meant as a comment on the image, they can be read simultaneously as a revelation about self-image.
Photographed over many months, the differences in the man himself, not only the haircuts, are striking. In only a few photos does he really seem to be expressionless. In certain photos, he looks angry, in others tired, in some calm. Sometimes he is extremely pale, other times tanned. In the absence of physical action or strong expression as well as in the absence of great differentiation in the structure or composition of the photos, the eyes of the artist become the focus of the project. The photos taken together as a whole become about how the image that one projects and the walls that one erects can be utterly transparent.
The artist’s death triptychs address the differences between how people project themselves in public and in private. They expose, humorously, the undercurrents of boredom and malice in apparently happy relationships. The highly cinematic color photography is influenced by the fairly recent modern tradition of color art photography, particularly that of Joel Sternfeld, with whom Savard studied.
The murderous action of the scene is at once more shocking and more mundane for the posh setting. The menace in the photos is palpable and the lush surroundings reveal a refined malice. This element, along with the formal photographic style used, points to the dark passions that lie beneath the surface of gentility.
In one of the shots, a pink glass on the table creates an optical illusion. When viewed from a distance, the glass appears to be, rather than a glass in front of the woman’s head, the inside of her head, as though her perfectly coiffed head has been cleaved open and the pink insides are showing.
The wooden boxes of Savard’s recent installations recall fairground stereoscopes and slide viewers, a memory of childhood, which present the viewer with a fanciful imaginary world even as the sculpture encloses him in a tight space. Wooden cones hang from the ceiling, evoking telescopes. The viewer must pull the cone to eye level, but using a system of pulleys, one cone is pulled away as another is brought closer. The images themselves, as well as the motion of the pulley mechanism, make explicit that you cannot have one thing without losing the other.
This pulley system is a reference to the elusiveness of memory, the American dream, and the many different Americas that exist even within one family. What you want is always just outside your grasp; in reaching for one object of desire, another slips further away. The cones are matched, in weight and image. They must balance each other not only physically, but metaphorically. On one side, an image of a young child looking through a metal fence at an airplane on a runway. On the other side of the rope, an image of a wealthy couple waving at the camera as they board a plane.
The cones themselves are handsomely made, smooth and polished pieces of wood. The drawn scenes inside the cones reinforce the contrast between different Americas. The images include a trailer park in Wyoming, bathers in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and a family in Cape Cod. For some viewers, the images are a throwback to a simpler time; for others they are a life they want to escape, or one they want to attain. They are images of lives and families that are at once familiar and strange, to ourselves and the artist.