Opening Hammer Projects: Nicolas Party

Promptly at 12:30pm last Wednesday, Ali Subotnick, curator, led an open discussion about artist Nicolas Party – the man responsible for the art on display in the Hammer Museum’s newest exhibit, which was set to open that morning. The conversation lasted only 15 minutes, but it sparked further discussion on  modern art and design, and the limits of conventional artistic methods – limits which Party seeks to defy through his work.

Swiss born and bred, Nicolas Party began as an active graffiti artist in the 1990’s, which greatly influenced his approach to art. He received his BA in Fine Art at the Lausanne School of Art and then went on to receive his MA at the Glasgow School of Art in 2009. As an independent painter and muralist with work commissioned worldwide, Party continues to test the limits of the artistic process and techniques by manipulating scale and content in his art. His work has been lauded by critics abroad and at home for his unconventional approach to conventional subjects, such as coffee pots, cups, cutlery, geometric shapes, plants and portraits – both human and animal. His projects range from site-specific mural-interventions to refined pastel on canvas works, often with a playful surrealist take. He has experimented with painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking and curatorial projects.

Recently, his work actively involves people. He has held dinner parties for which he designed a menu, tableware, and furniture (which were later displayed as sculptures), and invited children to the gallery to play with his handmade ‘art props’. You can read a more detailed biography of Party here

In order to gain a better assessment of Party’s work firsthand, I visited the Hammer Museum to have a closer look of the display. Upon setting foot into the museum, I was greeted by a giant mural of a bowl of peaches. The shape of each peach had been simplified into rounded bulbs, and their usual red-orange skin had been stripped in favor of muted pinks and emerald greens.

 

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The wall on the opposite side was graced with another mural of familiar form, but the objects in the bowl were simplified to the extent that they almost seemed exotic.

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As I continued through the museum, I encountered similar themes, textures, and images utilized in the murals – shapes, stretched and bloated, distorted yet soft, embodying colors of a peculiar warmth. I was enthralled by the way Party manipulates objects in his his landscapes and his portraits – all enticing, all audacious in their approach.

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Like the accounts I’d read online, I’d describe Party’s work as familiar, yet alien. He begins with objects that are commonplace to us – objects that we encounter often in our daily lives – and transforms them, reworks their colors and their figures into forms that exaggerate their presence. He gives his subjects character, humor, personality – life. Party essentially takes a twist on the ordinary by bringing out the obscure. Somehow, I found myself mesmerized by objects that my eyes would usually graze over from having seen so often. In a sense, Party’s art taught me how to ‘see’ again.

If you are interested in viewing the exhibit, Party’s art will be on display until February 19th, 2017.

For more information about the Hammer Museum, including upcoming events and opportunities to get involved, visit their website.

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