Seth Cameron: The TouristFebruary 1st - March 30th, 2024
Nina Johnson is pleased to announce The Tourist, a solo exhibition of all new paintings created within the last year by South Carolina-born, New York-based artist Seth Cameron. Opening February 1st in the Exhibition Library, the works in the show take on themes of estrangement and grief while further expanding the investigation of the fluidity of language and image characteristic of the artist’s practice.
Historically working across abstraction, landscape, and storytelling, The Tourist is Cameron’s first body of work comprised entirely of images. Utilizing sumi ink, associated with Chinese and Japanese writing and image-making traditions, the paintings depict a sense of dissociation and detachment as Cameron explores ways of viewing and modes of identity as experienced through artwork, photography, language, and memory. With the ethereal medium, Cameron echoes artists and writers from Manet to Mondrian to Camus to Knausgaard, displaying a vision of the world always already mediated by signs and shadows.
Of note in the exhibition is The Stranger (chrysanthemums) (series), which pays homage to Manet’s practice of painting flowers in his last years of life as he was alone and dying from syphilis, as well as to Mondrian’s secret practice of painting chrysanthemums while publicly championing pure abstraction. For Cameron, these quiet practices offer a complex depiction of grief, akin to Camus’ imagining of grief in the novel The Stranger. In his series, begun in October as crisis consumed Israel and Palestine, Cameron was inspired by the sun reflecting in his studio, casting the silhouette of a plant across a blank canvas. This image reversed the light of the painting to portray what Cameron viewed as deep emptiness reflective of similar grief.
In other works such as Carraig-na-gCat, Cameron’s references are more personal, as he portrays the sense of immensity of space he experienced while living in West Cork, Ireland and looking over the expanse of the Atlantic Ocean in the direction of his home in New York.
In The Tourist, a painting after which the exhibition is named, Cameron imagines the caricature of the tourist as an ironic colonizer or Calvinist God, experiencing the world entirely through the lens of a camera in which reality is outside the frame, everything is desired, and nothing is ever physically touched.
“I think these paintings help me give a kind of dialogical order to the world,” said Seth Cameron. “For me, beauty lives on the razor’s edge between overwhelmedness and detachment.”
The Tourist will be on view through March 30th, 2024.
“I composed The Tourist adjacently to a body of paintings of the same title. Often I find I need to use a different discipline to process whatever I’m doing, to come at the same ideas with the constraints of another set of traditions. In the paintings I’m looking for the material and process to give images a quality of restraint and detachment. I want them to assume a delib- erative semiotic presence akin to poetry. In the video essay I’m looking to pit the aggressive meaningfulness of montage against the modern morass of information and image culture. Both approaches give shape to the artistic character of the tourist: always-already in exile, hapless in liberation, and confounded by the ordinary. “ -Seth Cameron
Raised in the Southern foothills of the Appalachian mountains to a family of preachers and teachers, Seth Cameron became neither and both. At the turn of the century, he expatriated to New York City, graduating from The Cooper Union School of Art before establishing the iconoclastic artist collective, The Bruce High Quality Foundation. The Foundation has been included in Greater New York at MOMA PS1, The Whitney Biennial, and The Sundance Film Festival, and was the subject of a 2013 retrospective at The Brooklyn Museum of Art. Beyond the collective’s artistic practice, Cameron founded and directed its free experimental art school, BHQFU (2009-17) alongside other forays into the field of art education, including leading The Intradisciplinary Seminar at Cooper Union, serving as Critic-in-Residence at the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting at Maryland Institute College of Art (2022) and as Executive Director of Children’s Museum of the Arts (2020-2023).
In his practice Cameron draws influence from Chinese literati painting, New Wave cinema, Romantic landscape painting, postmodern confessional fiction, and post-painterly abstraction, creating philosophically and emotionally charged paintings and literary works that ask empty cups to be as sweet as the punch. Recent solo exhibitions include The Tourist (2024, Nina Johnson Gallery), The Fair Mountain (2020, Nina Johnson Gallery) Sunless (2019, Nathalie Karg Gallery) and Suns (2018, McClain Gallery).