Terraforming Paradise: the art of Eric Nauman

    By: Christina Chastain

    Eric Nauman is a St. Louis multi-media artist whose 2 and 3-dimensional work is deliberately placed within experimental environments to create unique visual experiences.

    His exhibit at the Kranzberg Art Gallery is titled “a deal with the devil… Terraforming Paradise.”

    “Terraforming is a term that references preparing a planet for humans to be able to inhabit, as we seem to be progressing in our own destruction of our environment,” said Diana Hansen Director of Galleries and Artist Relations at the Kranzberg. “When [Nauman] talks about ‘terraforming paradise,’ he’s talking about the paradise that once existed on Earth that we have compromised.”

    His work is responding to recent world events and the impact of these events on our social and cultural identities. He contemplates the possible outcomes of global chaos through the eyes of those most directly facing the consequences of what may come to pass. In his work, he is directly challenging the viewer to consider the cost to ourselves and our planet in our pursuit of money and success.

    “The bright colors and playful repetition of patters are a little bit deceptive. It’s very pleasant, but once you start to scratch the surface, you see he has real concerns about how our planet, our society has been corrupted by money in particular, and that we’ve been sidetracked in our quest for progress,” said Hansen.

    Through his sculptures and paintings, Nauman takes direct shots at the corruption on the world stage, directly questioning both the social values that lead to unrest and those that lead to apathy and complacency.

    “We’ve acquiesced to the notion that greed is somehow tolerated and lies are somehow part of the game. Eric remains very true to his ideas about ideas and standards that shouldn’t be corrupted, that should remain pure,” said Hansen.

    Nauman’s interest in creating art began at a young age and he was inspired by his older brother’s example to pursue drawing. He became equally interested in 3 – dimensional forms and sometime later, gazing at a porcelain Care Bears lamp, he realized anything that is man-made was made by a person or a creator. This epiphany opened the flood gates of his young imagination.

    Nauman’s paintings are usually abstract, the paint often being applied with a gestural hand and completed when they find their place to stop in time. His sculptures are the opposite and require the meticulous application in his mastery of numerous skills. He understands the mechanics of motion and utilizes whatever medium is necessary to best realize his concept. Employing carpentry, sewing, cast forms and assemblages, his accomplishments are evident throughout the exhibit.

    Taking shots at corrupt political imposters, his art reflects his own perspective of cultural events and the social concepts that determine how we form public opinion.

    “There are these images that reference something beautiful, something like paradise, and yet, within it, are woven these suggestions that all is not well,” said Hansen.

    At times, Nauman vandalizes his own work believing this act to be essential in the process of discovering an authentic inner voice and dialogue with oneself. In his exhibitions he rebukes the ubiquitous advertising and sale of everything with his own visual branding. He aims directly at the commercialism of art and the degradation of the artist lost in its hypocritic system. He actively advocates the undoing of the status quo and states, “This is for the for the good of all mankind.”

    “I think it’s a dilemma for every artist today, is how do you negotiate the space where you can be seen and you can be heard, but you don’t become a product of the gallery systems or museum systems,” said Hansen.

    “a deal with the devil… Terraforming Paradise” is the fourth in a series of yearlong exhibitions at the Gallery at The Kranzberg centered around the overarching theme of “Chaos.”

    ‘”Chaos’ asks artist to speak to how they deal with the chaos that seems to be upon us and the extremes everywhere in our society. And also, how the artists create something or tether themselves to something that give them hope,” said Hansen.

    The exhibit is on view at the Kranzberg Art Gallery through Nov. 15. You can also see Nauman’s work at Untitled Art Gallery on Cherokee through the month of November.

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