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Aaron Fowler: Bigger Than Me

05/02/18-08/19/18

Artist Aaron Fowler (b. 1988, St. Louis, MO) creates elaborate assemblage paintings from discarded found objects and unconventional materials sourced from his local surroundings.

Cover Image:

Aaron Fowler, Lex Brown Town, 2017. Christmas tree trunks, fake palm tree, pianos, shirtsleeves, shirts, acrylic and enamel paint, paint tubes, dirt, tire, car parts, hair weave, Minions backpack, graduation cap, CDs, LED rope lights, and Plexiglas on wood panels and truck topper, 16 × 12 × 3 ft (4.9 × 3.7 × 1 m). Courtesy the artist

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Through intuitive layering of castoff furniture, oil and acrylic paint, and collaged elements including CDs, water bottles, iridescent LED lights, car parts, and plastic bags, Fowler meticulously constructs hybrid tableaux infused with a sense of raw urgency. Taking compositional cues from American history painting and religious iconography, Fowler inserts both imagined and concrete narratives from his personal experience. Each work illustrates a poignant subject or event that holds significance for the artist, from portraits of incarcerated family members and friends lost in acts of violence to fantastical scenarios incorporating historical figures, role models, and public icons.

For the window of the New Museum’s 231 Bowery Building, Fowler presents “Bigger Than Me,” a new installation of his work. On a back­ground of tiled mirror are two works: Lex Brown Town (2017) in the left window, and Miss Logan (2017-18) in the right. Like many of Fowler’s projects, both of these pieces are reflections on specific individuals who have been sources of inspiration for the artist. Lex Brown Town is an homage to Fowler’s fellow artist, collaborator, and MFA classmate at Yale School of Art, Lex Brown. Deploying materials including shirt­sleeves, hair weave, and a Minions backpack, Fowler portrays Brown in orange, fighting off a wolf. This piece was inspired in part by a perfor­mance she staged at Yale, Run Bambi (2016), in which Brown describes finding her way through obstacles including racism and sexism. This composition sits atop nine monitors screening video footage of Fowler collecting Christmas trees as material for his work.

Miss Logan is a portrait of a young girl whom Fowler believed to have been his own daughter. While DNA tests eventually proved otherwise, the artist felt a strong connection to the child, and began this painting of her as a mermaid the day the two met. The title of Fowler’s instal­lation, “Bigger Than Me,” is taken from a song by Detroit-born rapper Big Sean, in which he realizes that his life experiences and motivation to succeed are shaped by forces larger than himself. In relationship to Fowler’s work, the title also speaks to the artist’s process of allowing these superior powers to inform the creation of his projects-whether through the materials he comes across, incidental happenings in his life, or the relationships that shape him.

“Aaron Fowler: Bigger Than Me” is part of a series of window instal­lations that relaunches the program originally mounted at the New Museum in the 1980s. This program included now-legendary projects by Jeff Koons, David Hammons, Linda Montano, Bruce Nauman, Gran Fury, and others.

“Aaron Fowler: Bigger Than Me” is curated by Margot Norton, Curator.

Aaron Fowler (b. 1988, St. Louis, MO) is an artist based in New York and Los Angeles. “Bigger Than Me” is the artist’s first solo museum presentation. Fowler creates elaborate assemblage paintings through intuitive layering of found objects and unconventional materials that illustrate imagined and concrete narratives from his personal experience. Recent solo exhibitions include Diggs Gallery, Winston-Salem State University (2016); Beeler Gallery, Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, OH (2016); and Diane Rosenstein Gallery, Los Angeles (2016). He will be in “Made in L.A. 2018” at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2018), opening in June, and has been in group exhibitions at Savannah College of Art and Design Museum of Art, Savannah, GA (2017); Saatchi Gallery, London (2017); Rubell Family Collection, Miami (2016); and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2015). Fowler was a recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant in 2015 and an artist-in-residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2014.

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This project is made possible with support provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

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