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THE BUZZ: Ron Nagle: Peripheral Cognition

The+Bad+Clown-1 nagle_carbomb

Ron Nagle: Peripheral Cognition

Curated by Ariel Plotek

Through February 17, 2015

Article by Cathy Breslaw

The current exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art, Peripheral Cognition, comprised of small sculptural works by Ron Nagle, was organized by Ariel Plotek, Associate Curator of Modern Art at the museum. Plotek first became aware of sculptor, Ron Nagle’s work at the Venice Biennale in 2013, and this exhibition is Nagle’s first major museum show. The mixed media and ceramic works in this show span 39 years. The exhibition required special displays which were custom built in collaboration with the artist. Created for specific eye-level viewing, each small ‘hand-sized’ piece has been deliberately placed and spaced within the spot-lit protective glass displays, in overall darkly lit smallish rooms. The environment within which the art pieces are shown creates a certain drama, highlighting the ‘preciousness’ of the individual works of art as the viewer is drawn into Nagle’s world. The combination of tiny vessels, cups, organically shaped forms and precisely hewn sculptures share space with one another. Nagle’s works are each truly one-of -a -kind.

Originally influenced by the sculpture of Ken Price and ceramicist Peter Volkos, Nagle’s work also bears connection to Japanese tea bowls and ichibana, as well as to the modern, post-modern and pop-art movements. Important to note is that Nagle is also a musician/songwriter which is evident in the rhythm, movement, textures and color choices of the sculptures. There is also an underlying sense of humor evoked in many of the works as well in Nagle’s carefully selected titles for his pieces. “Lobster Boy”, “Grim Trimmins”, “Sometimes Better to Lull Suspected Person with False Sense of Security” and “Car Bomb” are some of his provocative titles – begging the viewer to take an even closer look at the work, as we search to understand the connections between title and meaning. One entire wall is dedicated to a series of his drawings on old-school yellow and pink legal pad paper. These small drawings provide a glimpse into Nagle’s thoughts and ideas as he develops his work. It is visually and emotionally exciting and fun to experience these intimate, diminutive works that challenge, tease and inform us about the world of Ron Nagle’s imagination. In referring to his work, Ron Nagle expresses his vision best:

“A great song and a great piece of art would have in common the ability to evoke some form of emotion in the listener that they haven’t quite gotten before. If you’ve already heard it or already experienced it what’s the point of looking at it or listening to it?”

 Images L-R: Ron Nagle, The Bad Clown, 2003. Ceramic. Collection Trish Bransten, Rena Bransten Gallery. © 2014 Ron Nagle. Photography by Don Tuttle.
Carbomb, 2012. Mixed media. From the collection of Ron Nagle. © 2014 Ron Nagle. Photography by Don Tuttle.

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