Drawings, paintings eye link between technology, nature

Nathan Abels is showing works in museum through Oct. 21

Posted 10/2/19

In fall 2018, area artist Nathan Abels won Best of Show in the Own an Original Exhibition at the Littleton Museum, entitling him to a solo show the following year. “Within and Without: Works by …

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Drawings, paintings eye link between technology, nature

Nathan Abels is showing works in museum through Oct. 21

Posted

In fall 2018, area artist Nathan Abels won Best of Show in the Own an Original Exhibition at the Littleton Museum, entitling him to a solo show the following year.

“Within and Without: Works by Nathan Abels” opened at the museum on Sept. 20 and runs through Oct. 21 during museum hours. This exhibit will please a variety of viewers for various reasons: expert control of medium, whether drawing or painting, as well as an opportunity to invent possible stories about the subjects. Who is that person depicted? Or is anyone there now?

“Abels creates works that explore our relationship between the natural world and technology,” according to a Littleton Museum release. “He depicts a speculative future after climate change. In a series of paintings and drawings, climate change is only alluded to in the periphery.

“The residents of this future world have chosen to either leave the planet, or to withdraw from the larger remaining culture.” Hence the holy men and loners. See: “Richard Proenekke (30 years in the Alaskan Wilderness”).

Abels, who is faculty/coordinator in Arapahoe Community College’s art and design center, states that “Residents have chosen to leave the planet” in introductory remarks, and one walks in through/under a stunning giant blown-up black and white wall of snowy evergreen branches, with a path leading to this really intriguing collection of drawings and paintings. The cold, quiet stillness of a snowy forest sets a mood.

The images included in “Within and Without” were created in various ways: graphite on paper, acrylic on canvas, acrylic and oil on linen, acrylic on canvas, colored pencil on acrylic on paper, acrylic on linen …

New exhibit curator Moira Casey has made a nice start with Abels’ exhibit, setting a lonely tone via arrangement and lighting. Visitors talked in subdued tones at the opening reception, discussing the sometimes-mysterious images — and almost hearing a sound at some point. What was that?

Abels arrived in the Denver area in 2007 from Indiana. He writes; “my work explores the landscape and its inhabitants. Many of my images depict a paused narrative, such as a parachutist in free fall or an encounter with a bison in the woods. What I am capturing in these paused moments is a sense of, as Keats wrote it, `straining at particles of light in the midst of great darkness.’”

Among his portrait subjects is “Brother Lazarus,” a lonely-looking man rendered in a low-key palette with acrylic and oil on linen … finely detailed. One is sure there is a story there — and one who thinks about words a lot wishes there were a bit more text about this man … while realizing that the storytelling is in that visual image.

Look at “Spacex Tent City (day)” and ditto (night). Desolate. Who goes tenting in such a cold, barren place?? Why?

The variation in techniques and materials in these subtle works gives a viewer a good feeling for this artist’s thoughtfulness, as well as technical mastery.

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