Oliver Nowlin: Lightning’s Lung, February 24 through October 15, 2023

Oliver Nowlin: Lightning’s Lung

Since the 1970’s, Oliver Nowlin has developed a singular approach to integrating painting, sculpture, and light. Nowlin’s works investigate abstraction, geometric form, texture, color, and mark making, while also exploring relations to narrative and symbolism. Neon performs a varied role in the works: a tool to illuminate, a vehicle for figuration, as well as a way to resist or complicate the idea of a symbol or sign. Found objects in Nowlin’s work range from cardboard packaging, to beer decals, and planks of wood. They are transformed through painterly and sculptural interventions. Much of Nowlin’s work mines his personal narrative and diverse interests. Each art piece can be understood as an abstraction of particular life experiences, however Nowlin’s rich index of shapes and approach to surface shift across his oeuvre from symbolic to aesthetic, imploring the viewer to encounter the work from their own perspective and interpretation. The wall based sculptures marry autobiography and abstraction in multivalent visual languages to celebrate the complexity of embodied experience.

Oliver Nowlin b. 1941, Syracuse NY. Undiagnosed as dyslexic as a child Nowlin was able to over develop his eye and conversational abilities. His light skin and talent with people and images enabled Nowlin to weave between worlds from the segregated south that he moved to in high-school, to his service in the Navy during the Vietnam war. Nowlin received his masters at Otis Art Institute and taught in Los Angeles Community College and Cathedral high-school. A painting of Nowlin towers 20 feet tall in Kent Twitchell’s mural “6 LA Artists” in Torrance CA. Nowlin has shown his work at MONA since the 1980’s. This is his first solo exhibition at the museum.