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  • Source: ARTNEWS
  • Date: SEPTEMBER 17, 2015
  • Format: DIGITAL

Habitat: Nick van Woert

Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.


Nick van Woert photographed in his Greenpoint studio on August 20. (KATHERINE MCMAHON)

This week’s studio: Nick van Woert in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. “What I’ve started to see and what has defined the subtext to much of the work I do is that the comfort that many materials provide is only camouflage for the horror underneath,” van Woert said, when asked about his process. “Things are not as they appear.”

Originally from Reno, Nevada, van Woert has been working at his Greenpoint studio space for four years. He originally studied architecture before switching to art, but one can see his earlier training in many of his pieces, like 6221 Osage Ave, which is a model of a home that once stood at 6221 Osage Avenue in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1985, the house was occupied by a black liberation group called MOVE. The cops dropped a bomb on the house, killing 11 people and burning down 60 other homes in the process. “I wanted to resurrect this house,” he said. “The piece of zombie architecture became a symbol for the unwritten laws that we all live by—assimilate or die.” Situated nearby, a giant Mickey Mouse figurine covered in battery acid peers in our direction.

At the time of this shoot, van Woert was gearing up for a show at Moran Bondaroff in Los Angeles, which is currently on view until October 10. Below, van Woert shares some insight into his creative process and takes us around his workspace, where motorcycles, giant Indian sculptures, and hanging giraffes coexist.

“This is a model of 6221 Osage Ave. Philadelphia in 1985. The house was occupied by a return to nature, black liberation group called MOVE. They were being evicted by the police department. MOVE was not going to move, the cops dropped a bomb on the roof, it started a fire, and the cops said, “Let it burn.” It burned out of control, killing 5 kids and 6 adults that were inside while burning down 60 other homes. The model sits on the ground. As you move around it you occupy the perspective of the helicopter—the executioner’s gaze.”

“I don’t like to make things. There is always too much room for doubt. I don’t trust my own decisions. If you can grow sculpture there is no doubt, there is no conversation about proportion, there is no beauty, there is no ugly. There is room for a grotesque beauty though."

“I am obsessed with the things that exist but were not made. These are the things that define reality. These are the things that I do not question. This is nature. I want to my work to fall into this category.”