‘Threshold’ Tells Artistic Timeline

Halsey McKay Gallery welcomes Augustus Nazzaro with “Threshold,” on view now through April 28 in East Hampton. Nazzaro obtained his BFA and MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York and he has exhibited worldwide with shows in Moscow, London, Tokyo, and more. Now the East Islip native returns for his second solo exhibit with Halsey McKay.

Through the use of acrylic paint on wooden panels, Nazzaro’s panoramic installation portrays a story through time. Though the works were created between 2015 and now, they act as cues to the past. Rather than each being seen as a singular image, Nazzaro intentionally guides viewers over a timeline, where each work builds on the other.

What is your artistic process?

I begin with selecting imagery to paint, either from photographs I personally take or from online media sources. Several of my paintings utilize imagery taken from videos by anonymous users, then I create image captures or stills from them and then manipulate further by cropping, enlarging, adjusting exposure and contrast. These images act as a starting point from which I build the paintings surface up in a traditional manner by adding paint to the surface.

I allow the subject and personal feelings regarding the content of the image to inform the way I choose to carry out the work. I then systematically remove the paint from the panel’s surface by sanding off the successive layers, digging backwards into the history of the painting and removing the presence of the “hand.”

What’s your connection to the East End and Halsey McKay?

I was born and raised on Long Island, so in a way, it’s very familiar to me and I have a connection to the culture. It’s also a place I frequently visit the older generation of artists who established themselves there long before the hub that it is today.

I first met Ryan Wallace from Halsey McKay through an art collector. I was aware of the gallery and its quickly growing reputation and we began to have a dialogue over the years that has culminated in two solo exhibitions and several group exhibitions.

Why the title ‘Threshold’?

I push my paintings to their limit visually by subjecting them to an intense process of erasure. Threshold is, in a way, a metaphor for my artistic process. The word is most often associated with the measuring of one’s capacity to withstand pain.

The show works in a linear fashion. Why did you plan it that way?

The paintings create a loose narrative sequence when installed in this manner. The works are grouped in a way that allows for them to help give the viewer visual cues that inform or deepen the understanding.

You have an affinity for the past. What historical moments influence your work?

I have always been drawn to somewhat darker themes and have a particular interest in historical painting. Goya’s “Disasters of War” series was extremely influential to my work in the beginning. This notion of art having a function that is greater than just aesthetic enjoyment really connected with me.

This is what lead me to investigate similar events in contemporary America. For instance: 9/11, the Iraq/Afghanistan War, mass shootings, and the rise of hate groups.

What current events influence your work?

History repeats itself and there is so much to be learned from the past. It fascinates me the parallels between history and current events and sadly how little changes. I like to mine this area where the paintings I create today could, in a sense, be timeless.

Your work is very monotoned. Do you intentionally leave out vibrant color?

Yes, absolutely. Color is the first thing I strip from the works. It puts all of the paintings on an even field. It also carries its own significance, exhuming the loaded visual aesthetic of printed newspaper, historical photographs, or degraded Xeroxed imagery; mediums often used to deliver important information.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I plan to further the body of work that is being exhibited in “Threshold.”

Halsey McKay Gallery is located at 79 Newtown Lane in East Hampton.

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