Brilliantly juxtaposing the raw appeal of familiar cultural debris and an energetic re-examination of Pop Art, Nate Lowman’s Black Escalade is a concise, pulsating summation of the twenty-first century’s visual vernacular. Referencing his native southern California during the infamous race riots and O. J. Simpson trial of the 1990s, Lowman's work is frequently guided by the troubling necessity of violence in analyzing and constructing cultural relations. Based on trompe-l'œil magnets of bullet holes meant to be placed on cars, Black Escalade reassesses the conceptualization of violence in popular culture as a direct successor to the remarkable Death and Disaster series of Andy Warhol and the comic-book war paintings of Roy Lichtenstein.
Metaphorically, the deafening shot of the gun is amplified by the work’s imposing scale and subsequently muffled by a cloak of silkscreen dots; while they momentarily relieve the wound’s grotesqueness, the dots allude to printing and mass reproduction, the nonchalant prevalence of violence in media culture and the grim desensitization it triggers. The invisible, explosive blow of the bullet has been appropriated and distilled into a shaped canvas that adjusts itself to register only the precise physical outline of its subject. Having escaped the containment of the traditional picture frame, the renegade bullet hole exhales a corrosive, burgeoning vehemence that almost crumples its surroundings. Its destructive force culminates in a bottomless black hole at the center of the image, sinking through the wall and into another void. Black Escalade can be perceived to maintain a sense of optimism, as this record of the bullet’s collision with its target resembles a supernova, the genesis of a new universe. Yet, “America’s built on violence,” Lowman has said. “It’s about killing people and taking land and private property and getting. It’s all manifest destiny; totally brutal.” (the artist interviewed by Asher Penn, Bad Day Magazine, Issue 5, Summer 2009)