Nate Lewis: Tuning the Current
Fridman Gallery is honored to present Tuning the Current, the second solo exhibition with the gallery by mixed-media artist Nate Lewis. Following the critically and widely acclaimed 2020 exhibition Latent Tapestries, Lewis has extended his signature paper-carving techniques to explore connections among the visual languages of dance movement, anatomy, medical diagnostics and weather-pattern data. In the process he raises questions about the interrelatedness of physical movement, history and healing, particularly (but not only) in the context of African diasporic art and culture. Tuning the Current includes several new bodies of work: a series of life-size sculpted prints of figures in motion; abstract handmade paper “quilts” related in texture and patterns to the figurative works; and a multi-channel audio-visual installation representing a significant new step in Lewis’s ongoing relationship with mixed media.
Lewis is recognized for his intricate works on paper, which combine elements of photography, printmaking, sculpture and drawing. The figurative works in Lewis’s new exhibition feature dancers caught in motion with limbs intertwined against backgrounds of embossed textures, fabric rubs, colored inks and curvilinear shapes, which not only envelop but also respond to the movement, appearing as sound waves and currents.
Lewis sculpts patterns and textures akin to cellular tissue and topography. Rather than serving as a medium, the paper is transformed into the subject. This transformation is especially pronounced in Lewis’s abstract paper “quilts”, which are reminiscent of East-Asian painting scrolls. Handmade from pulp, they are microcosms of fundamental life forces – water, pressure, matter and chance. The abstract pieces are a kind of connective tissue for the exhibition – they relate to the textures and patterns of Lewis’s figurative works, and reach the depth of perception achieved by the incorporation of medical diagnostic imagery in his videos.
A series of new video works in the gallery’s downstairs media room mixes photographic snapshots of a dancer in motion, medical diagnostic imagery, weather patterns, atmospheric and oceanic currents, and starling murmurations. The video installation as a whole shows the symbiotic relationships among these seemingly disparate phenomena. Fragments of gestures by the dancer are captured one at a time, allowing the full spectrum of the movement to be felt by and sink in with the viewer. Lewis contrasts this contemplative unfurling of movement with distorted, blurred images that entreat the viewer to consider language clarity and obfuscation. He also juxtaposes the dance gestures with the flow of blood through the heart as seen in an angiogram, and uses imagery produced by the mechanisms in CT scans (including those of Covid patients’ lungs), MRIs and Ultrasounds that facilitate infinitesimal visualization and diagnosis for the purpose of healing.
“The diagnostic imagery is key,” states Lewis. “Medical diagnostics is a unique language critical to understanding a patient’s condition. These nuanced ways of looking at and listening to a body, profoundly influence how I see, hear, and understand the world. In the last few years they’ve represented the distillation of conflicting forces in our society. In particular how societal and natural forces, information and misinformation, healthcare and access to healthcare clashed during the pandemic, revealing the fault lines in society."