The new project that I have recently curated at Art Works Downtown, in San Rafael, CA, is Bob Nugent: Dialogues with Nature. The exhibition brings together work from four different series by the artist, Bob Nugent, that are being shown together for the first time. The nearly 30 pieces in the exhibition include large-scale paintings, flora drawings, works on wood veneer, and carved wood sculptures.
Nugent’s work makes reference to his many years of travel in Brazil, specifically along the Amazon River Basin. Over this period of time Nugent has developed a large and diverse body of work referencing the unique natural environment that can be found there. The work speaks of Nugent’s insightful explorations and interest in specific places and his ability to convey these impressions through his art in an evolving yet consistent manner. By suggesting imagery inspired by plant- and landforms, natural objects, insects, water and atmosphere, Nugent’s work reveals the essence, more than the actuality of a fully rendered landscape. Through an understanding of its unique properties both perceivable and intangible, and using images, memories, and materials sourced from specific locations, the works reflect an intuitive depth of knowledge and awareness of place.
In his paintings Nugent arranges extracts of landscape elements along with carefully rendered objects in an abstract matrix. Through a play of relationships and dichotomies of proportion—that is by making small elements large, and large elements small—an interchange takes place from realism to abstract and back again.
For the Flora Drawings Nugent took tattered and bug-worn pages from an old book of botanical drawings. After putting the paper through a cleaning and stabilizing process, he began using it for his own drawings with watercolor, gouache, conte, and ink. Eventually his drawings began to coincide and interact with the images and marks on the paper, creating a dialogue between himself, the original images, and the insect- and age-worn paper.
In the works on veneer, Nugent employs various wood veneers as a background for carefully rendered drawings of natural objects using watercolor, gouache, conté and pencil. In this way his drawings interact with the colors and wood-grain patterns of the veneer, creating their own conversation.
The Standards; which were crafted in California from local lumber, present an exchange between the tree, the miller, the insects, and the artist. Made of oak and other spalted woods (marks and discoloration caused by fungi, etc.), Nugent had one edge milled, the other left natural, and then responded to the markings left by boring insects by emphasizing them and continuing the dialogue with his own markings.
Nugent is a Professor Emeritus from Sonoma State University, and is a recipient of a Fulbright Foundation Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and numerous other awards, fellowships, and grants. His work is held in major museums and collections throughout the world.
A reception for the artist will take place on Friday, November 8, 2013, from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibition continues through November 22. For more information check their website, artworksdowntown.org.