Peter Nagy

Entertainment Erases History

Jeffrey Deitch
18 Wooster Street
Open by appointment
New York
Mar 6th 2020 — Aug 15th 2020

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Presented at Jeffrey Deitch in collaboration with Magenta Plains, "Entertainment Erases History" surveys the influential body of work created by Peter Nagy between 1982 and 1992 in New York, where he was immersed in the city's booming art scene.

Anchoring Nagy's artistic trajectory across this timeline are two distinct series—"Xeroxes" and "Cancer Paintings"—followed by a third, more loosely-defined phase.

Between 1982 and 1984, Nagy's "Xeroxes" emerged on loose-leaf papers as xeroxed-on designs, which he produced by photocopying separate, original collages that he would assemble out of commercially-derived imagery.

In 1986, Nagy began a series called "Cancer Paintings," which are characterized by amorphous shapes—the result of "sandwiching logos and other graphic elements until defamiliarized and abstracted," as explained in the exhibition text—rendered with bulbous, fractal linework that evokes metastasizing cells.

By the late 1980s, Nagy's subsequent "Cancer" paintings took on a new direction as the artist increasingly turned to Baroque and Rococo architectural patterns as points of departure in his compositions.

In the exhibition text, Jeffrey Deitch proposes a topical takeaway from the developments conveyed through Nagy's work as highlighted in "Entertainment Erases History":

A “cancerous” version of classical architecture, Baroque imagery offers the artist a vehicle to unveil the decadent behaviors of our culture, from consumerism to corporate power. In the coming years, Nagy’s paintings would progressively incorporate a wide variety of references and become even more open-ended, leaving us with the impending question: how will our society adapt to the fast-moving digitalized culture and its globalized stage?

Peter Nagy, Chained To Life, 1987. Sandblasted aluminum, 40 x 36 inches.