Nathan Stromberg—Back To Go Forward

September 7 - November 9, 2018

You may paint with whatever material you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.[1]
Guillaume Apollinaire, 1913
How is it that I feel that I have memories of things and places decades before my birth?[2]
Nathan Stromberg, 2018
Nathan Stromberg—Back To Go Forward, the first of three exhibitions in the Circulus Retro exhibition series, presents a selection of 37 collages and 2 paintings that shed light on Stromberg’s fascination with the past and the imagery of yesteryear.
In the spring of 2012—the centennial anniversary of the creation of the first modern art collage[3]—Nathan Stromberg (b. 1978, Springfield, MA) made a leap of the imagination and drastically changed the way he approached making art. Stromberg exchanged painting with paint for an experimental process of painting with paper. The idea came to him after discovering an unexpected treasure-trove, lodged inside the walls of his house. While renovating the attic of his home, the Saint Paul, Minnesota-based artist “discovered that it was filled with perfectly preserved reams of newspapers from 1941, sown together as insulation.”[4] Despite being a dedicated naturalist, Stromberg took one look at the yellowed ephemera and knew he “wanted to use the newspaper in his paintings somehow.”[5] Pushing his idea further, Stromberg writes in one of his artist’s statements—located in the exhibition checklists below—“In a direct nod to Pop Art painter Jasper Johns, I had the thought to incorporate clippings of the newspaper into the background of my paintings as a texture.” Feeling successful with and inspired by his first collage made with the 1941 archive, Stromberg put his paints on the shelf, took out his X-Acto knife and acrylic medium, and henceforth has worked exclusively with paper in lieu of paint.
Stromberg works with areas of color gleaned from vintage ads and photographs. He pirates shapes needed to depict every aspect of the forms and objects he observes. To enhance the idea and the feeling for each of his still-life objects, Stromberg limits himself to the local color of magazines and books printed in the same era as the manufactured object. In turn, Stromberg’s collages present his audiences with an unexpected reunion of color and form. Over the last 6 years, Stromberg has created more than 100 collages of period objects that capture not only a likeness of objects, but also the “color of their time.”
Stromberg wonders, “What value do the objects of mass consumerism hold over the years?” What is the value of an object made by hand in a society flooded by virtual realities? How do we interact with objects today as compared to 5, 10, 25, 50 years ago? In his artist’s statement about the paintings on display, Stromberg notes that “attitudes about men and women have changed since I first made these paintings.” “How we understand the past and relate to it,” Stromberg points out, “tells us a lot about the ways we engage with the present and look forward to the future.”[6]

[1] Guillaume Apollinaire, The Cubist Painters, Wittenborn, Schultz, 2nd ed., 1949, p. 23; qtd. in William Seitz, The Art of Assemblage, MoMA, New York, p. 14
[2] Nathan Stromberg, July 27, 2018 phone conversation with Todd Bartel
[3] Pablo Picasso, Still-Life with Chair Caning, 1912
[4] Nathan Stromberg, Objects of Worth, artist’s statement, 2017
[5] Stromberg, Objects of Worth
[6] Nathan Stromberg, Back To Go Forward, artist’s statement, 2018

The Cambridge School of Weston is a progressive high school for day and boarding students in grades 9–12 and PG. CSW's mission is to provide a progressive education that emphasizes deep learning, meaningful relationships, and a dynamic program that inspires students to discover who they are and what their contribution is to their school, their community and the world.