What’s in that pipe that Nick van Woert‘s sculptures have been smoking? The Brooklyn artist’s collection of Native American cigar shop figures have undergone a hallucinatory transformation as he considers the devastating effects of the European’s arrival on North America’s indigenous peoples.
The craggy, caricatured visages the statues once sported have been replaced with the ghostly faces of famous and influential men from the early years of America’s resettlement — including Abraham Lincoln, George Washington and Buffalo Bill — in a commentary on the assimilation and destruction of cultures by an invading force.
Just Dropped in to See What Condition My Condition Was In borrows its title from Kenny Rogers’ musical tale of drug experimentation and altered reality, and van Woert’s show tackles further barely believable incidents from America’s more recent history. The Nevada native’s detailed architectural sculpture recalls a 1985 incident in Philadelphia, in which the police bombed (yes, bombed) a house that had been taken over by the black militant group MOVE. Eleven people were killed in the explosion after the group resisted earlier attempts at forced evacuation.
A vinyl record made by van Woert provides a soundtrack to the exhibition, but years earlier in 1993 it was the soundtrack to the deadly Waco seige; one of the FBI’s psychological strategies against the cult was to bombard the Texas house with music and noise, which van Woert has recreated. The Moran Bondaroff gallery (formerly OHWOW) in Los Angeles is the scene of the crimes until 10 October.