In the gallery’s rear space, Nick Lenker will present new archival pigment prints and ceramic pots reminiscent of classical urns and kraters. These two- and three-dimensional works feature Lenker’s digitally collaged classical figures resembling those found in statuary and on ancient Greek and Roman vases. Lenker’s human/animal hybrids are reinterpretations of ancient mythological beasts such as the centaur and the minotaur. These fearsome, snarling creatures indulge their basest desires in orgies of bloody violence and bacchanalian excess.
Lenker’s figures are constructed from a combination of his own photos and images found online using simple Google searches. Plucked from cyberspace, these pictures are subjected to Photoshop tools to be pieced together and recontextualized according to the artist’s vision. In addition, Lenker loosely draws on paintings by Bosch, Rubens and Goya depicting such stories as Romulus and Remus, the infant brothers who were raised by a wolf and later founded the city of Rome, and Saturn, the god who ate his own children out of fear that they would depose him.
Lenker also will present a large ceramic piece depicting a video game terrain consisting of multi-tiered land- and seascapes installed on wall shelves. Within these diverse environments live fantastical creatures based on the aesthetic of children’s literature illustration. The piece’s title, Game Over, Continue?, suggests video games’ recycling of life in which the potential for play is theoretically endless, a philosophy similar to the reincarnation and death/resurrection beliefs common to most religions. The player, whose avatar is a ghost, is on a quest to ascend to the golden top level. This mystical color serves as a reference to the medieval philosophy/science of alchemy, the attempt to transform the physical properties of materials. The show’s title Dissolve and Combine reflects the alchemist’s desire to strip out unwanted qualities in favor of the pure and precious, and echoes Lenker’s artistic process of digitally stripping and uniting.
Lenker draws inspiration equally from comparative mythology, literary and religious fables, comics, and video games. These diverse formats all share similar examinations of hardship, suffering, victory and defeat. Lenker indulges in allegory, symbolism, and the personification of animal traits as vehicles to explore his own personal anxieties, fears, goals and desires. Often these heroic tales are woven in order to assert lessons of morality, and Lenker’s images of hubris and overindulgence can also be read as cautionary tales about the inevitable fall of all empires.
Lenker lives and works in Philadelphia. He holds a BFA in ceramics and sculpture from the University of the Arts. He has had solo shows at The Padlock Gallery in Philadelphia and been included in numerous group shows there as well as in Syracuse, Washington D.C., and Quebec. This is his first show in New York City.