Through a penetrating and provocative use of mass-media imagery, Nate Lowman (b. 1979, Las Vegas) elucidates subconscious narratives embedded in the visual language of contemporary culture. The Guggenheim Museum's recently acquired 2009 suite of a sculpture and three paintings exemplifies the dystopian undercurrents in his work. The art historical reference of The Last Supper is immediately apparent, but the image is in fact drawn from a newspaper clipping of an X-rayed truck concealing migrant Guatemalan workers as they journey toward the U. S. border, shifted to a vertical orientation. Lunch, which depicts a farmer surrounded by overgrown fields, is also appropriated from a sociopolitical news story, this time about the systemic decay of subsidized American agriculture. A sardonic humor characterizes Loser, a grainy image of a gravestone memorializing the unfortunately named “Catharina Loser,” while a more overtly somber use of tombstone imagery is reflected in the sculpture How to Redeem Your Towed Vehicle #1—a rusted element of a salvaged New York Police Department tow truck, alternately resonant of a crucifix, a gallows, and a scarecrow. Together, these works function as an oblique elegy for the souring of the American Dream, underpinned by a melancholy sense of social disintegration, exploitation, and failed promise.
—Katherine Brinson, Assistant Curator