Image: Mike Nelson, The Black Art Barbecue, San Antonio, August 1961, 1998, Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin © The Artist
Mike Nelson was born in Loughborough, England in 1967. He studied at Reading University and Chelsea College of Art and Design, London. In 2001 he was the recipient of an award from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and he has twice been shortlisted for the Turner Prize (2001, 2007). Nelson represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 2011.
Nelson makes large-scale sculptural installations, which immerse the viewer in an unfolding narrative that develops through a sequence of meticulously realised spatial structures. The weaving of fact and fiction has always been fundamental to Nelson’s practice and his constructs are steeped in both literary and cinematic references whilst drawing upon the geography, history and cultural context of their location.
The Black Art Barbecue, San Antonio, August 1961 (1998) is a recreation of an artist’s desk in a studio. The title of the work is taken from an amalgamation of the various drawings that are hung around the desk. The work also visually references an engraving by Albrecht Durer, St Jerome in his Study (1514), which shows a man reading at a desk, surrounded by an intriguing collection of objects and animals.
Like much of Nelson’s work, the scene appears as if the (unknown) artist has just left the room and may return at any moment. The light under the desk is on and the objects on the desk are laid out as if organised for a particular purpose or function. The unusual collection of items, which includes tools, rocks, twigs, plastic toys and skulls and what look like voodoo dolls, hints at an interest in the occult, which is echoed in the drawings hung on the surrounding walls.