Museums and mega-galleries are often called temples of art, but in his new installation at Hauser & Wirth, Nicolas Party takes it to a much more literal place. Dramatic architectural interventions include the addition of massive walls with elongated doorways and a constructed room-within-a-room with distinct chapel energy to the already-soaring two-story space.
Painted in dramatic, saturated hot and cold palettes, the new walls host framed paintings, on-site murals, and surreal sculptures in diffusely lit chambers of reductive palatial luxury. Within this environment, Party deftly fuses influences of post-Renaissance Northern European art history with pop art, natural science, mythology and mural culture.
In the new work for Sottobosco, Party makes explicit reference to a term denoting the forest floor and its particular qualities of color, light, shade, and coolness. Paintings and sculptures throughout this new series depict wild and symbolically-charged elements of nature like flowers, snakes and caves indicating transformation. Throughout the paintings and sculptures, Party makes specific visual references to the work of 17th-century painter Otto Marseus van Schrieck, one of whose original works is on view inside the chapel. Borrowed from Party’s personal collection Marseus’s “Three Snakes, Lizards, and Toads” (1663), is more than a prime example of the sottobosco style of darkly romantic still life which he pioneered — it is a key aesthetic and narrative touchstone for Party’s entire re-interpretive project.
Other masters of the Northern European floral still life such as Rachel Ruysch and Jan van Kessel also make their spirits known. The flowers in the particularly stunning “Portrait with Roses” for example are a symphony of reds and pinks, the deep sunshine riot of “Landscape” and the fiery magenta tresses of the regal figure in “Portrait with Snakes” all combine a finesse of stylized draftsmanship with an avant-garde, operatic posture of a tarot deck. Party’s belief in the power of art to transcend era and context to evolve into timeless works of shared humanity is everywhere evident.
Party’s lauded sense of color, too, is particularly beguiling, whether in the pure color fields of the high walls, or in the flush, nuanced symphonies of his pastel on canvas portraits and landscapes. His figures, flora and fauna exude magic realism, with mannerist eccentricities and stylized lines, more than matched by the experience of the wonderland setting. In a nod to the design conventions of fancy manors, two site-specific interior murals rendered in the artist’s distinctive use of pastel directly on the wall depict luminous caves in a sort of art deco folk, both raw and illusionistic, whisper-soft and elusive like a dream.
Sottobosco is on view through April 12 at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 901 E. 3rd St., downtown. hauserwirth.com/hauser-wirth-exhibitions/26491-nicolas-party.