has been gathering various images from printed materials as well as personal and found photographs. He particularly enjoys culling from ephemera such as flyers, posters, newspapers and zines. Karsten carefully stores and studies his source materials, and processes these images until he considers them his own. He freely associates disparate images to create his narratives and finds something new within the old and overlooked. The 70s and 80s political and cultural movements, particularly punk and rock ‘n’ roll music scenes, played a significant role in Karsten’s adolescence in Germany. His figurative art, not only enriched by the remnants of these by-gone eras in the artist’s personal life, but also carefully controlled by the artist’s own structure and organization of the images.
The exhibition highlights three outsize 6 x 6 ft. woodblock prints, the two of which are both iconic and hyper-sexualized images and originally appeared in the 70s. The image of Sticky Fingers is originally the artwork conceived by Andy Warhol for The Rolling Stones album released in 1971. The image of Amorica was taken from a 1976 cover of Hustler magazine, which also the cover image of the 1994 Black Crowes album. The other, entitled Colors (image above) deviates from the recognizable imagery he is known for, while still displaying his love for experimentation and play. Making these prints involves intense manual labors. Karsten rubs paper against table-size plywood into which he carves with dental drills and applies ink. The resulting painterly texture and strong color bring back the provoking energy of original music scenes and the history of the era, still resonating with our contemporary culture.
Other works on paper include Village Voice Grid, a collection of New York-based weekly newspaper’s front-page illustrations, on top of which Karsten playfully superimposes idiosyncratic images and witty words. The work shares graffiti art’s sarcastic social activism. More meditative and surrealistic side of his figurative art is revealed through a series of graphite drawings and “cutout” collages. Delicately and meticulously rendered, they tap into limitless subconscious, the relationship between good and evil and the contradiction that arises in a grotesque world where anything is possible.
Born in 1970 in Hamburg, Germany, Nils Karsten
moved to New York in 1995. He received his BFA from the School of Visual arts in 1999, and in 2002 participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture’s residency program. In 2003 Karsten received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Since acquiring his MFA, he has been a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts. His work has been shown in galleries and museums throughout the United States, as well as in Hong Kong, China Kyoto, Japan, Istanbul, Turkey, Berlin, Germany. His work can be found in numerous private and public collections such as the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina. Karsten currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.