Nottingham Contemporary opens solo exhibitions by Allison Katz, Mélanie Matranga and Erika Verzutti

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Nottingham Contemporary opens solo exhibitions by Allison Katz, Mélanie Matranga and Erika Verzutti
Erika Verzutti, Livro de Criança, 2013. Concrete, bronze, clay, polimer clay, soft clay, wax, 23 x 29 x 3.5 cm, 9 1/8 x 11 3/8 x 1 3/8 ins Courtesy of Alison Jacques Gallery, London © Erika Verzutti.

NOTTINGHAM.- Nottingham Contemporary is presenting three solo exhibitions, by Allison Katz, Mélanie Matranga and Erika Verzutti.

For each of the artists, the exhibition marks their first institutional solo presentation in the UK, and features new bodies of work. Katz’s paintings use humour, puns and language games to explore the medium’s relationship to questions of identity and expression. Matranga combines film and installation works to explore the dualities and contradictions of our interior and exterior lives. Verzutti’s sculptures in bronze, cement and papier mâché, combine references to the natural world and art history, playfully confronting the canon.

Allison Katz: Artery

Titled Artery, Allison Katz's exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary is the London-based Canadian artist's first institutional solo show in the UK. It is a collaboration with Camden Art Centre, where it will open in January 2022.

For more than a decade, Katz has been exploring painting's relationship to questions of identity and expression, selfhood and voice. Animated by a restless sense of humour and curiosity, her works articulate a tricksy language of recurring forms – roosters, monkeys and cabbages, among other things – that are by turns familiar and enigmatic. Katz's paintings, as well as her ceramics and posters, are frequently bodily (full of noses and gaping mouths) and relentlessly wordy, thick with puns and allusions. What emerges from these multilayered works is a sustained and critical pursuit of what the artist has called “genuine ambiguity”.

For Katz, “Artery” is a resonant and loaded title. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood, flowing from the heart to the rest of the body. Katz has said, “I want to emphasise the non-order of things, from inside to out.” Arteries are inside us (and “art” is nestled inside “artery”), but they also connect us: the “arterial” is used to describe major highways, subterranean cabling, branching rail networks and winding river systems. This exhibition is preoccupied by these networks and channels, by the spaces between inside and outside, you and me, experience and image.

Across both venues, Artery responds to the particularities of the gallery spaces and locations. At Nottingham Contemporary, the works have been installed along and behind a series of angled walls, apertures and peepholes; at Camden Art Centre, the exhibition will be reimagined, and will be joined by new paintings and works in ceramic. All of the works in Artery were made during the last 18 months, in the midst of an ongoing series of national lockdowns. The questions they ask – of communication and connection, of intimacy without touching – are as much a response to this current moment as a continued exploration of themes that have persisted throughout painting's history.

Artery is accompanied by a publication, designed by Studio Mathias Clottu.

Mélanie Matranga: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4

Nottingham Contemporary presents the first institutional solo show in the UK by French artist Mélanie Matranga, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4. Comprising a gallery-wide installation, a new moving-image commission and a selection of sculptures, the exhibition untangles the intricacies of our everyday lives, from relationships and work to wellbeing and money. By turns intimate and elegiac, Matranga’s installations contemplate our fraught relationship to language, representation, images and memory.

In a moment when we have become accustomed to confinement and isolation, and where the current COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a rethinking of proximity and touch, Matranga’s work offers a deeply affecting reading of the personal and social. It navigates questions of self-perception and the politics of being together with an attentiveness to the poetry of the everyday.

Fundamental to 0, 1, 2, 3, 4 is how what might usually be private or hidden becomes public. New sculptural works – assemblages, domestic panoramas and a maquette of the artist’s own apartment/studio – offer worlds within worlds; fruit, flowers, clothes and cigarettes haunt the space. Matranga’s installations often have a diaristic quality, where handstitched words and numbers recall intimate thoughts, exchanges and encounters.

The exhibition includes Matranga’s most ambitious moving-image work to date, People (2020), a 25-minute black and white film. Shot in the artist’s own apartment, People follows characters from Matranga’s own life, playing ‘themselves’ in front of the camera. Contrasting moments of isolation and togetherness draw out feelings of dependency, angst and pain, both real and imagined. Interspersed with this are scenes of sex and desire, as People toys with the erotic as both a loss and overspill of the self and others. As with all of Matranga’s films, she resists a singular reading of intimacy, instead preferring to play with the poetics of pleasure and plurality.

Erika Verzutti

The first solo presentation in a UK museum by the Brazilian artist Erika Verzutti gathers sculptures from the past 15 years alongside a body of new work and a site-specific commission. This survey draws together key examples of her vocabulary of recurring forms, which combine allusions to the natural world with references from art history.

For Nottingham Contemporary, Verzutti presents more than 40 existing works. Often humorous forms are realised in a core set of materials that include bronze, concrete and papier mâché. At times seemingly primordial, the sculptures draw from a range of visual sources, including domestic objects, vegetables, newspaper clippings, internet phenomena and art history. Verzutti reimagines works from such artists as Brancusi, Picasso and Jeff Koons, a playful nod to the magnitude of their dominance in the art-historical canon. The exhibition includes wall reliefs; hefty rectangular apertures that explore the point at which painting and sculpture meet.

In this exhibition, Verzutti’s home country represents important points of departure. In sculptures moulded from jackfruits, which can be considered symbolic of Brazil, she defies the Brazilian modernist tradition, slicing, carving and sculpting the fruits in a tactile celebration of contrasting surfaces. Verzutti continues her reference of Brazil in tributes to painter Tarsila do Amaral which take form in many works as a swan, cucumber or dinosaur.

Alongside these works are a series of new sculptures made from papier mâché, a material that Verzutti has said allows her a new freedom and autonomy, and a new life-size bronze commission that the artist refers to as Venus, the mother of all sculpture.

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