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Milwaukee Art Museum opens first retrospective of influential New York artist James Nares
James Nares, Brushes, varying year, materials, dimensions. Courtesy of the artist.

MILWAUKEE, WIS.- The first retrospective for New York–based artist James Nares is on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum this summer. James Nares: Moves, on view June 14 through October 6, 2019, is the first exhibition to explore in depth the artist’s films as central to his artistic practice.

Nares has dedicated his five-decades-long career to focusing attention on motion by variously creating, capturing, and manipulating, as he describes it, “things in motion, motion in things.” His video Street, from 2011, and single-brushstroke paintings, from the early 2000s, have brought broader, popular attention to the British-born artist through online video channels and an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; both show Nares bringing a filmic perspective to his work, an approach he first established as a young artist in New York in the late 1970s.

“Looking at an artist such as James Nares and bringing greater attention to his work is an exciting opportunity for the Museum,” said Margaret Andera, interim chief curator and curator of contemporary art, Milwaukee Art Museum. “He is an artist who has continued to question, explore, and produce, regardless of popular trends, instead remaining true to what intrigues him about the work and the world around him. The art world historically champions those who make a big splash; Nares is among those quieter gems we are getting better at recognizing in their lifetime.”

James Nares: Moves brings together more than 140 of the artist’s films, photographs, drawings, paintings, sculptures, and videos, revealing how Nares has returned to, built upon, and reinvented his filmic pursuits. A gallery near the end of the exhibition allows visitors to see some of the processes and tools behind Nares’s art making. Featured are his sketchbooks, his paint brushes, which he makes himself, and footage on how Street and other videos were developed.

“James Nares is a prolific, perpetual creator,” said the curator of the exhibition, Marcelle Polednik, PhD, Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director, Milwaukee Art Museum. “He is not constrained by any one medium. A central figure of punk rock and No Wave cinema in New York in the 1970s, he has remained curious and innovative in his work as his pursuits have broadened and matured. His influence on the artists and art of New York is indelible; placing his work in the canon of art history allows us to more fully understand the development and nature of contemporary art.”

That the Museum’s director is curating the exhibition is notable, further underscoring its importance. The emphasis on Nares’s creative practice, his experimentation, is deliberate not only because it aligns with the Museum’s seasonal focus on process, but also to highlight what, in many ways, has made Nares so significant to the contemporary art world: part and parcel of his work is everything that has led up to the making of each object.

Nares was among the artists represented in MoMA’s film series New York Film and Video: No Wave—Transgressive, from December 1, 2017, to March 26, 2018, as was his friend, the film director Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch and Thurston Moore, co-founder of Sonic Youth who provided the soundtrack to Nares’s Street (and another longtime friend the artist met in the early days in New York), will contribute to the accompanying exhibition catalogue.

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