Gallery Hopping: Ron Nagle’s Mysterious, Hilarious Ceramics at Matthew Marks

We dare you not to find these works thrilling.

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Ron Nagle, French Stickler
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Ron Nagle, Cult Classic
Ron Nagle, Cult Classic (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, Don and Juan
Ron Nagle, Don and Juan (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, French Stickler
Ron Nagle, French Stickler (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, Ghosting
Ron Nagle, Ghosting (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, Ice Breaker
Ron Nagle, Ice Breaker (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, Similak Child
Ron Nagle, Similak Child (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Ron Nagle, Turkish Hairlines
Ron Nagle, Turkish Hairlines (2016). © Ron Nagle, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.

Ron Nagle’s last New York show, at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2015, prompted feverish attention, racking up reviews in Art in America, Frieze, and Artforum. Writing in ARTnews about the show, Andrew Russeth reported that upon viewing Urinetrouble (2015) he found the sculpture “grotesque, then psychedelic, then uncomfortably erotic, and then all those things at once.” Nagle’s new outing at Matthew Marks, in Los Angeles, is sure to generate its own buzz.

The artist has for decades been making diminutive ceramic sculptures that pack an outsize punch with their radioactive colors, globby shapes, and cheeky, punning titles. Among the works in the new show are French Stickler (2016), in which a silver base supports a seemingly gelatinous, chemical-looking orange sheet that maintains a sinuous, two-pronged black form. In view of the title, the sculpture takes on the appearance of a weird sex toy.

Turkish Hairlines (2016), meanwhile, offers up a pock-marked green disc that resembles a cactus and, again in light of the piece’s nomenclature, recalls a cartoonish head, a bit like that of South Park’s Mr. Mackey.

The works are exhibited in vitrines set back into the wall so that they’re at the artist’s preferred height for viewing, and so that, in resonance with the artist’s side job as a musician, the viewer is seeing what he thinks of as the works’ “A sides.”

In remembering his friend and fellow ceramic sculptor Ken Price at a memorial service I attended in 2012, Nagle quoted that artist as saying, “We’re so lucky to get to make stuff.” You’ll find you can’t help but see Nagle’s similar joy and gratitude shine through in his own work.

“Ron Nagle: Ice Breaker” is on view at Matthew Marks, 1062 North Orange Grove, Los Angeles, through April 8, 2017.


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