Do people grow up, or do they get older and stay the same? The work of Brooklyn artist Nils Karsten suggests that we never let go of our childhood fantasies, and that they become more elaborate over time. Karsten explores the dream-imagery of youth and adolescence in his artwork, which is populated with toys, dolls, stars, rocket ships, farm animals, rock stars, and album covers. His drawings, collages and woodblock prints are on display right now at two New York galleries: Ubu and Illuminated Metropolis. And, while the artist’s themes remain constant, his most recent works are executed with more sophistication.
I’m drawn to the collages, especially those on small, letter-sized sheets, which have a special intimacy. Karsten uses powdered graphite to create smudgy, dreamy backgrounds, and clipped pictures from magazines and newspapers to compose scenes. The figures in the collages have human, animal and machine parts, and often try to connect with one another in strange, unfruitful ways. In their unexpected juxtapositions the pieces evoke surrealism. This landscape isn’t a post-Freudian one, with established, collective symbols, but a private one, rich with idiosyncratic remembrances.