Not necessarily ‘too’ avant-garde

BY TANNER KOOMAR | JUNE 10, 2009 7:26 AM

You may have seen Nathan Musser’s work before — his art has appeared in several downtown businesses, including the Buzz and Revival. It is fitting, then, that his first formal gallery exhibition opened June 5 during the Iowa Arts Festival’s Gallery Walk. Though the festival itself may be over, Musser’s collection of paintings will remain on display through the rest of the month at the Old Post Office Gallery, in the Senior Center, 28 S. Linn St.

Musser graduated from the UI two years ago with a degree in printmaking. He switched to painting because “after you graduate, you have to buy your own press — professors don’t tell you that. They’re sneaky like that.”

The paintings themselves fit comfortably into the general classification of abstract modernism. Several of the paintings involve the same shape derived from the Fibonacci shell, while others look like graffiti-inspired Jackson Pollock murals.

The entire series is actually a bit of an experiment for Musser.

“I’m trying to see what works and what doesn’t,” he said.

Although he said he’s “not necessarily painting for the audience,” the audience members shared their opinions anyway. One elderly viewer told him, “Your work’s just a bit too avant-garde for us, honey.”

Avant-garde, indeed — for the 1950s. His paintings don’t break new ground, but they do seem to belie a common sensibility that is absent from the work of many abstract artists. The paintings all have a good balance. They are energetic without being overly cluttered and beg the viewer to look closer with subtle, almost subliminal, voices.

The gallery in the Senior Center may not necessarily have been the best choice to host this collection. Regardless of the reception, however, Musser said, he plans to go on to graduate school.

“In this economy, I’d rather just go back … kind of live off the government for a while,” he said.
Let’s hope Iowa gets to see a bit more of this talented young artist before he moves on to greater things.

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