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Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
JAMES NARES: 1976: ‘Movies, Photographs and Related Works on Paper’

Film still: James Nares, Pendulum, 1976. Courtesy of Paul Kasmin Gallery.

Just days after viewing Jesus Soto’s exhibit at the Grey Arts Gallery, I was invited by a former student of mine to join her and the social club “The Contemporaries” in a gallery talk by James Nares at the Paul Kasmin Gallery.  JAMES NARES: 1976: ‘Movies, Photographs and Related Works on Paper’ is a show primarily concerned with New York, and particularly Lower Manhattan, in the 1970s when that part of town was neither hip nor trendy but more of a “Wild West.”

The abundance of preparatory sketches and works on paper for Nares’s Super-8 film “The Pendulum” reveal the sort of obsession that leads artists to important realizations. Balls of various sizes occupy the gallery’s central space and their attractive arrangement echoes the artist’s quasi-scientific sketches based on which he conducted his calculations for the construction of his immense pendulum. This was installed in Lower Manhattan’s narrow alleys. Its movement through them and against the surrounding buildings is the main subject of Nares’s film.

I finally missed the artist’s talk because he arrived very late. I accepted the anticipation and its heightened temporal dimension as a reminder that in 1976 Nares was exploring ideas very similar to what Soto expressed in his work during the 1960s. The dimension of time as part of the work and the human presence (in Nares’s case this is evident by his own shadow registered on the film and while he is filming the ball) as an integral part of it are ideas that toy with the novel direction art was taking during that time. These two elements allow the viewer to recognize the object (in this case the city, New York) in its most immaterial form.

Yet, this “immateriality” is bold and loud and it also feels heavy. A different approach from Soto’s elegant compositions, Nares’s pendulum experiment reminds us that we are indeed in New York, where everything is massive.

© Thomaï Serdari