Mike Nesbit – Highland at Noon: The Summer

13 August - 3 September 2022

There seems to be this emerging conversation about landscape, about a ‘Midwestern Landscape,’ and what does that mean?  How do we paint the new ‘West’?  Is the new ‘West’ even Los Angeles at all?  Did the ‘West’ ever really exist? Could the new west be the ‘Midwest’?  

I always go back to the old Spaghetti Westerns and although they were meant to represent the West, they were filmed in Italy and that disconnect and slight abstraction made them more interesting and ironically authentic. All the other American Westerns seemed quite staged, very ‘Hollywood’, formal, façade, precious, clean, and polished. Maybe this series of work is an attempt to paint/draw this new emerging landscape while at the same time search for personal authenticity.

 

 Mike Nesbit

navigating the streets of LA with a Thomas Guide

watching Sergio Leone

traversing the endless cornfields of Iowa in an old team bus

home and memory seem to be interdependent

an accumulation of moments

Los Angeles

walking barefoot through Westchester

a landscape that has nurtured

neither and both

like a ‘Man with No Name’

somewhere in between

more prose, less narrative

an LA rooftop

a morning walk through Little Italy

gathering wild flowers under a cobalt sky

somewhere between ‘Flamingo Sketches’ and ‘So What’

a means of representation

the haze of possible routes

not that straightforward

more collage

jazz-like precision

abstraction as the mediator of search

not a single place

not a single period of time

an approach to look for something that quite possibly can’t be found

 

 

Seasons LA presents Highland at Noon, new paintings by Los Angeles artist Mike Nesbit. In relation to American geography, Nesbit takes the term “west” as a starting point, or rather, as a concept to theorize what it means and may represent. “West” could refer to Western Europe, the Western Hemisphere, European Expansionism, American westward expansion, or even as a midpoint - the Midwest. 

As part of his artistic identity, Nesbit lives within, and between, L.A. and Omaha, Nebraska. The former is a major metropolitan area with centuries of history, whereas the latter is a fairly small city with a suburban American attitude.

Geography and time converge, referring to Highland Park in L.A. at the very specific time of 12:00 p.m., giving context in relation to light, shadow, and human activity. Matrices on the artwork’s surface look like ruled lines, but are in fact satellite-views of Los Angeles.

In stark contrast, Omaha’s positioning is almost at the very center of the continental United States, with masses upon masses of greenery and cornfields mixed within its city limits (with fewer roads, of course). The oppositions and similarities between these two cities are what undergirds these paintings. 

Here, Nesbit is a formalist. 

 

Most apparent are the works' reliance on action painting and primarily colors, using CYMK and RYB, two distinct color systems used to reproduce and mimic reality. Instead of blending, pure Red, Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta are brushed on, unmixed or unblended. 

 

Flatness, rather than depth, is the focus. A brush stroke here or there lays large swathes of color, with an occasional flick of the wrist for a gestural line that guides the eye from one point to another. 

Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art are at once combined and reduced, with serial imagery printed through silk screens. But rather than depict a celebrity, floral print, or chair, the almost invisible and intangible subject here is Los Angeles in the 21st century. 

 


 

Mike Nesbit is an artist based in Los Angeles.  With a background in architecture, his multidisciplinary interests greatly inform his artwork, allowing Nesbit to explore areas between art and architecture with a focus on technique, process, context, and representation.  Nesbit has participated in solo and group shows internationally and throughout the United States.  He received a Bachelor of Architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture.  Before art and architecture Nesbit played four years of professional baseball with the Seattle Mariners.  Nesbit is a founder of the Non-Profit/Artist-Run Space, Maple St. Construct, located in Omaha, Nebraska.  Maple St. Construct, is a gallery/residency program that looks to bridge the gap between Los Angeles and The Midwest by providing artists in Los Angeles and The Midwest with the resources to create work outside of their typical environments.

Text by Jonathan Orozco