I’ve always felt comfortable creating on a computer. But I’ve also painted. Lately, in my work, I’ve been moving back and forth from the iPad, Photoshop, and painting. I see colours on the iPad, and I want to recreate them in an analogue form. And having these colors show up in a painting feels unexpected. It’s just like the art historian T.J. Clark wrote in his seminal book on the impressionists, The Painting of Modern Life. They were relating to a new urban environment, and to the phenomenon of photography. The camera didn’t care if it left half of a person out of the picture. When the camera presented things that way, painting began to do the same and that felt unexpected.
I feel as though my paintings are a continuation of art history. In a really obvious way you can see that I’m adding some of the digital aesthetic into painting. I don’t think of it as an escape, it’s more likean addition. I’m not trying to make a radical statement, like with theinvention of land art or minimalism. However, it is about creating a new way of seeing. It’s not extreme but it’s still about newness.
Joshua Nathanson was born in 1976 in Washington, D.C., and lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He has has solo exhibitions at Downs and Ross, New York; Kaikai Kiki Gallery, Tokyo, Japan; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles and most recently at the YUZ Museum, Shanghai, China. Public collections include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago and the YUZ Museum, Shanghai.
How does the new presidency affect life as an artist in LA?
I try to stay optimistic, but I think he’s the worst thing that could have happened to the US. It’s insane, as much as my friends and I detest him, there’s still 40 fucking percent of our country who approve of him. And he’s totally fascist. My art used to be optimistic. And although it’s still intense and energetic, it’s not as optimistic anymore. Now, I use more bodies and interiors, the opposite of the boundlessness of the Internet. Body parts, dirt, and caves are ancient, and I think it’s some kind of reaction to all that crap. Maybe I’m looking for an escape.
You live in the age of the Internet. Do you still feel connected to art history, or Western art history?
You can do anything on a computer, right? But still, when you draw, even when children draw, something happens. A magical space appears, with its own aesthetic, which you can’t find anywhere else. It doesn’t even exist in dreams. It’s the most unique and creative experience of all. I’m very aware of art history, and I steal from it shamelessly, all the time.