On Monday, Nationale’s new show, Everything We Ever Wanted, was extended through July 6, and it’s easy to see why. Though the show’s promotional materials tout an interest in the divide between what Lana Del Rey would call “the real and the fehhhhhhhk,” it’s also got echoes of post-net art, and brings an explosion of color to the shop/gallery’s tidy, white box.
There are Sarah Mikenis’ paintings of grouped, unidentifiable objects—they’re weird homunculi in gorgeous jewel tones, like an army of .gifs invading our tangible, 3-d plane. Jonathan Cassella’s works in acrylic do something similar: They’re paintings, but so heavily textured they read as collage. I checked with Nationale’s Gabi Lewton-Leopold: They’re not. It’s a delightful trick of the eye writ in broad gestures, and the color scheme you’d expect from a D.A.R.E. t-shirt ca. 1994, not precise cross-hatching behind swathes of paint.
Then there are Katie Batten’s paintings—perfect, picture book-illo assemblages that are like acid-hued I Spys for the digital age. They’re like getting to see inside a stranger’s browser history, if that stranger was more into lifestyle porn than porn-porn. I spy: Goldfish in a bowl cribbed straight from Matisse. I spy: a slice of pizza, a nod to snackwave, the web-based snack-food obsession the Hairpin’s dubbed “the internet’s saltiest meme.” I spy: Artforum. I spy: A Dutch-blue-painted flowerpot. In another one of her paintings, Batten zooms in on what reads as the top of a dresser piled with a sliced geode, a BFF necklace, a crucifix. The Tumblr teen girl aesthetic is one of my favorite trends in contemporary art right now, and it’s very much present in this painting, in objects so strongly associated with a particular age (adolescence) and a particular time (mid-‘90s?).
Batten’s paintings are, for the most part, the show’s only plainly representational pieces. Though Mikenis’ appear to have been painted from tricked-out still lifes, they read as abstractions. They’re fascinating. But they evade categorization. Meanwhile, Battens’ paintings are all about categorization. They’re invested in objects. And with their impossibly bright colors and smooth lines, they manage to be both cartoonish and very clean. I want to hang out in a room with 500 of them.
Everything We Ever Wanted is a shot in the arm. It’s a burst of color without being a mess, an onslaught of references you don’t necessarily need to understand. It’s as bright as you want, and then some.