Critics’ Picks

Ron Nagle, Signature Scent, 2017, wood, catalyzed polyurethane, epoxy resin, 6 × 4 1/2 × 4 3/4".

Ron Nagle, Signature Scent, 2017, wood, catalyzed polyurethane, epoxy resin, 6 × 4 1/2 × 4 3/4".


Ron Nagle

Modern Art Helmet Row
4-8 Helmet Row
September 10–December 12, 2020

This exhibition’s eponymous Lincolnshire Squire, 2018, is not a noble medieval courtier, as one might speculate, but rather a pint-sized sculpture. As is typical with Ron Nagle’s practice, some titles are red herrings, while others playfully experiment with alliteration and punning. This is perhaps best epitomised by Mail Impotence, 2018, which takes the form of an engorged arrow, its point buried, with cartoonish, phallic fletching.

Nagle fabricated the “squire” itself in his hallmark idiosyncratic combination of ceramic, epoxy resin, and catalysed polyurethane. The work is comprised of three elements: a crimson form analogous to a scallop shell is fused to an asphalt base on which a masticated-looking white rock has been placed. This gravelly texture recurs in different hues throughout the show, often combined with segments of gilded or lustrous oozing glazes, from the acidic aquamarine of Planetary Honorarium, 2020, with its psychedelic lilac edges, to the earthy ochre tones of Editorial Conjecture, 2019. The lurid colours and irregular textures complement each other, synthetic smoothness viscerally juxtaposed against stuccoed surfaces.

Along with a selection of preliminary drawings, there are eighteen sculptures in the show, some of which are exhibited in individual square recesses in the gallery walls, spot-lit like antiques in a museum; others sit protected in glass vitrines placed on plinths which offer a full 360-degree view. The intimate scale of these works, all of which are between three and seven inches high (similar to the dimensions of a Fabergé egg), force the viewer to peer closely and make her own speculative visual associations. In Signature Scent, 2017, what looks like latex gloves or chicken giblets protrude from a knobbly, mint-chocolate-chip wall. In Nagle’s ­sculptures I perceive stick bugs, hamburgers, a quill, tongues, ashtrays, sardine cans, udders, tombstones, and teardrops. Like Gestalt optical illusions, the references are fleeting, morphing back and forth.