Nick photographed with his work at OHWOW gallery in Los Angeles.
Brooklyn-based sculptor Nick van Woert looks intently at the vast ellipse of polished steel taking up a considerable portion of his warehouse studio floor. Atop it rest rough-hewn pieces of bronze evoking an abstract map. "I think of it as a mappa mundi," he says. "In the Middle Ages, they would create maps of the total sum of their knowledge. I'm trying to map everything I know."
At this point that might be a considerable undertaking. On the day of our interview the Nevada-born artist has just returned home from L.A. where he installed his show No Man's Land at the OHWOW Gallery, and is already back to work planning two solo shows and a presentation at the Frieze New York art fair in May.
Van Woert developed an affinity for landscapes while studying architecture at Parsons, shaping a vision that explores ambitious topics like radical environmentalism and deep ecology via darkly poetic objects. "I was schooled in landscape painting, but it wasn't so much about making a visual likeness as much as a material likeness," Van Woert says. "It's just the stuff of the world as I see it."
That "stuff" translates into unorthodox materials including cat litter, dirt, powdered Muscle Milk and Colon Cleanse, as well as Plexiglas cases of hair gel and chlorine. "Ecoterrorists have this obsession with materials -- like hair gel and chlorine," Van Woert explains. "They mix them, and the chemical reaction creates a fuse to burn down billboards. I'm fascinated by how these materials are coded with their own extinction, but are also incredibly generative."