The Nasher Sculpture Center’s latest exhibition for Nasher Public in the Nasher Store gallery, Nasher Public: Dan Lam, on view will be on view through May 23.
For the past seven years, Dan Lam has created a menagerie of amorphous sculptures that play with the line between beauty and ugliness, attraction and repulsion, the sensuous and the disturbing. The artist broadly categorizes the organic forms under the monikers Blobs (wall-mounted mounds), Drips (piles that drip over an edge, such as shelf or table), and Squishes (mounds that seem to rise up on sprouted appendages). Made of polyurethane foam, acrylic paint, and epoxy resin, the forms take on a kaleidoscope of colors—from Day-Glo pinks and yellows to neon greens, and from shimmering silvers to dark shiny eggplant purples—and are often studded with spikes of equally vibrant hues. The works are inviting in their coloration and tactility, but suggest an element of danger or discomfort, like beautiful yet poisonous jellyfish or microorganisms grown to a disturbing size.
For her Nasher Public installation, Lam has made her largest sculpture to date. A Subtle Alchemy takes the Squish form to architectural proportions: standing eight feet tall, the mound rises up on slender legs, allowing viewers to pass underneath its dome. The artist worked with sturdier materials to work on this scale, commissioning a steel armature sculpting with styrofoam, epoxy clay, and resin, and coating the form with chameleon autobody paint that shifts colors as one moves around it. The shimmering surface gives the work a sense that it is alive and changing, or reacting to others in its presence. Lam worked with digital artists Geoff Case and Eric Trich, who created projected imagery and precisely mapped it to the three-dimensional form of the sculpture, enhancing the “sense of the piece transforming before your eyes, from solid to liquid,” according to Lam.
Lam’s work recalls Lynda Benglis’s experiments with liquid materials that take on obdurate form, like poured latex and foam. It also finds roots in the whimsical surrealism of Ken Price, whose ceramics and later painted fiberglass sculptures employed amorphous, organic forms and vibrant colors to similarly attractive effects.
Lam’s family immigrated when she was an infant from Vietnam to Houston, where she spent her childhood. Lam studied drawing and painting in college and graduate school, earning her BFA degree from the University of North Texas and MFA from Arizona State University. Her work has been the focus of solo presentations in Oregon, New York, and Texas, and has been included in group exhibitions in London, Paris, and New York City. Through a partnership with Steve’s Ice Cream and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, Lam presented large-scale, interactive works outdoors at the ICA Boston in the summer of 2019.