Chad Attie



December 14, 2013 – January 18, 2014 

Opening Reception: Saturday, Dec 14, 2013, 6-8pm


Klowden Mann is very pleased to present our first solo show by Los Angeles-based artist ChadAttie, Contempt. The exhibition features collage works presented on paper, canvas and light box, exploring themes of idealized love, alienation, mythologized beauty, and loss of innocence through the use of found imagery of figure and landscape. The exhibition will be on view from December 14th through January 18th, with a reception for the artist on Saturday, December 14th, from 6 to 8pm.
In Contempt, Attie uses a variety of found materials that speak to our investment in (potentially false) ideals, and in the objects we create to represent those ideals. Vintage paintings purchased at garage sales, imagery from cinema (the title Contempt is in homage to Jean-Luc Godard’s film of the same name), children’s book illustrations, fabric, and needlepoint all become fodder for re-examination, as Attie layers his imagery and then tears it away to reveal what lies beneath (which is more surface, more idealized representation). Attie’s found representational objects themselves have been vested with hope—of reconciliation and wholeness through love, of childhood imaginings, of land that has not yet been overrun with industrialization. Attie’s manipulation and composition of those objects acts to invest new hope through dialogue, while simultaneously ripping apart the very ideals to which they speak. Presenting the moment of recognition as taking place exactly where the ideal meets its own impossibility, Attie continually focuses in on the destructive potential of desire to override all other modes of seeing and being. In the surfaces of Attie’s works, he shows us the unconquerable distance between subject and object, and the struggle to find agency while an idealistic hope for unity still maintains narrative power.
Chad Attie was born in Los Angeles, and studied at UCLA and Boston University. He has exhibited at venues including Caro d’Offay in Chicago, Read Contemporary Art in Dallas, Andrew Shire Gallery, Frank Pictures, Carl Berg Projects and Newspace in Los Angeles, and Wooster Projects in New York. He lives and works in Los Angeles. 

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Klowden Mann
6023 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232





Chad Attie’s Eden, Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Contempt

The year is 1793 and an English gentlemen is setting forth on a morning walk in the Lake District where he is taking his holiday. He is an art enthusiast, perhaps even an amateur watercolorist, and he is keen to experience the beauty of the landscape. In his pocket, therefore, he carries a small velvet-lined case containing an oval mirror of darkened, convex glass—a “Claude glass”—which he will use at certain points along his route to look at the landscape, framing its reflection into a picturesque scene reminiscent of the seventeenth century paintings of Claude Lorrain (hence its name). In order to really see the beauty of the landscape, the man believes, it is necessary to give it a unifying, harmonious quality. The reflection in the glass, he thinks, is how the landscape ought to look.

The work of Chad Attie exploits this notion of idealized nature to great effect. Like a Claude glass, Attie’s Eden series is a kind of distorted, picturesque reflection of the natural landscape. But unlike its historical forerunner, Attie’s work also frankly discloses the impossibility of attaining perfection. His is an imperfect view, a view through a glass, darkly, as it were, incorporating all the worldly fallibility that phrase implies. The pictures in this series are shot through with a melancholy feeling that the perfect vision of nature they reach for is illusory.

As a consequence, the materials Attie uses—vintage paintings, panels of needlepoint, scraps of fabric, book illustrations—are built up in layers and torn away, containing juxtapositions that are sometimes harmonious, sometime violently dissonant. By obsessively and relentlessly subjecting these materials to layering and repurposing, Attie underscores a restless yearning to reestablish the lost paradise. Cumulatively, these techniques endow his pictures with an unusual duality, at first evoking a harmonious ideal and then rupturing their seeming perfection, often quite literally. His own interventions in the work, this tearing away at the picture’s surface, assert the idea that an individual is at the center of this world, a position not of omniscience, but of isolation, exile, and loss. The Contempt series in particular is informed by a sense of the solipsism of experience. In these works the holes in the picture’s surface seem almost like caves or burrows into which a single entity has retreated, sharing a wider pictorial space, but remaining ineluctably separate.

In fact, it is perfectly appropriate to couch Attie’s work in eighteenth century terms, since his work engages age-old ontological questions. These often concern the nature of representation, but they also raise wider questions about our relation to other people and to our environment, particularly our (ultimately futile) desire for harmonious oneness with them. In this sense, for Attie, the body and the environment are intimately linked, the two often interchangeable—the loss of the ideal landscape stands, in his work, for the loss of the desired body.

Appropriately, 18th century art theory also understood views of the natural landscape in corporeal terms. Edmund Burke, in his 1756 essay Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, argued that aesthetic experience was as much a matter of instinct as it was a rational decision. Burke’s notion was also highly gendered as well: thus, soft, gentle curves appealed to male sexual desire, while awe inspiring sublime effects appealed to our desire for self-preservation. In Attie’s works too, seeing and desiring are often one and the same thing, though who holds the sway of power in this visual relationship, the viewer or the viewed, is often unclear.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, and in spite of the universality of the issues it engages, Attie’s work is deeply personal and often autobiographical. This personal element, rooted in the cultural and ethnic diversity of Los Angeles where he lives and works, brings an emotional weight and compelling intimacy to his works. Appropriately, Attie's works draw their inspiration from a diverse range of sources, from art history to children’s literature, thrift stores to classic cinema, and express the intense feelings associated with relationships, childhood memories, and the experience of the natural landscape. Attie’s cinematic interest, especially, is deeply personal, a fact clearly evident both in Contempt and Picnic at Hanging Rock, both series based on movies with which he has a long standing, not to say obsessive, fascination.

Given Attie’s own diversity of image sources and his layering technique, it is fitting that both Contempt and Picnic at Hanging Rock are multi-layered movies. The former, Jean-Luc Goddard’s 1963 epic starring Brigitte Bardot, is partly about the disintegration of a marriage, partly about the process of making art – in this case, a film production telling the Odysseus story. Picnic at Hanging Rock, meanwhile, is based on Peter Weir’s 1975 film of the same name – aptly, adapted from a novel which was itself based on a Victorian painting. Like the various versions of Picnic at Hanging Rock, Attie’s work explores the tensions and restrictions of social customs, deconstructing and reassembling a story of the mysterious disappearance of a group of schoolgirls and their teacher on a school trip in 1900. It is this layering of sources that finally makes Attie’s work so distinctive of its time.

And so, while our eighteenth century gentleman sets out on foot through the countryside, Attie gets in his car, his camera-phone—the contemporary counterpart of the Claude glass—in his jacket pocket. The scope of his view of the world is accordingly more diverse, temporally fractured, accumulated from the flotsam and jetsam that the life of the city throws up. But like the Claude glass, Attie’s pictures condense the world, framing it, disclosing a cracked and flawed vision of the ideal.




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