Todd Norsten presents all new paintings for his third solo exhibition with Adams and Ollman
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Todd Norsten presents all new paintings for his third solo exhibition with Adams and Ollman
Todd Norsten, On My Knees, 2022. Oil on canvas, 20h x 16w in. 50.80h x 40.64w cm.

PORTLAND, OR.- Adams and Ollman is presenting An Imprecise Recollection of an Inaccurate Memory, a solo exhibition with new paintings by Todd Norsten (b. 1967, Minneapolis, MN where he continues to live and work). The exhibition, the artist’s third with the gallery, opened on May 20 and is on view through June 17, 2023.

Norsten transforms images and observations from his daily life and travels into painted meditations on the universal impulse to make a mark. Riffing on a throughline the artist has identified from ancient petroglyphs, to lovers’ initials carved into trees, to bathroom graffiti, Norsten absorbs visual culture all around us—roadside billboards, peeling paint on the side of a barn, hand-painted “Keep Out” signs, lottery advertisements—then translates and transforms these snippets and non sequiturs into sometimes earnest, often satirical works that give character to things that are transitory or ephemeral, elevating banal moments into subjects worthy of contemplation.

Norsten’s direct and minimal works sample historic paintings techniques, such as trompe-l’oeil and sgraffito, while also incorporating stenciling, flat surfaces, and evocative brushstrokes that forefront the history and act of painting itself. Text figures prominently in the work, and increasingly it is deployed politically. Included in the exhibition is, Untie, Unite, whose blurry rendering complicates reading and intention and calls to mind what could be a sinister campaign slogan, or perhaps a tongue in cheek embrace of the typo. Another work, A Cheerful Painting, which in its entirety reads “A Cheerful Bright Painting in Spite of Greed Hatred Disease Bigotry Catastrophe, Corruption and Poverty in Our World,” deploys a seemingly lighthearted, but scathing critique of the darker corners of the human condition. Other paintings such as The Back Up Plan Repentance and Spiritual Decay tackle the fraught topic of the problematic and often contradictory moral codes of organized religions that have increasingly become mired in partisan politics.

Pointing fingers, surveillance cameras and skulls also make appearances, often cloaked in the thin veneer of graphic design tropes—uneasy in their contradiction, yet strangely comforting in their familiarity. At times, works display a softer, contemplative note. NOTHING EVERYTHING might be a meditation on the exhausting, meaningless promises made by advertisements and slogans, or it could reflect a personal existential moment of clarity, while An Imprecise Recollection, the show’s titular piece, strikes less as forlorn regret for some exact memory, but almost as paean to the role that imagination must play when memory is imperfect. While Norsten’s works are part inner dialogue and part plea to pay attention, the works in sum make clear that the absurd can be an effective and cathartic political tool to expose the problematic or troubling aspects of our everyday reality.

Select solo and group exhibitions include Federica Schiavo Gallery and Fondazione Giuliani, both in Rome, Italy; Dayton Art Institute, OH; Josée Bienvenu Gallery and Leo Koenig, Inc., both in New York, NY; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis Institute of Art and Midway Contemporary Art, all Minneapolis, MN. In 2006, Norsten was included in the Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. His work is in the collections of the British Museum, London, England; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI; and the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, NH.

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