I’ve written a little about Sean Nader in this space before. For those of you who are new or usually read this while you’re drunk, or if you’re that guy from Memento or something, let me refresh your memory. Sean Nader is one of my best friends. He used to be a roadie for the Lawrence Arms for a long time. He drinks shots of whiskey, sweats when he craps, eats while crapping/sweating, and has an almost preternatural sense of how to destroy things. I wrote a song called “Demons” loosely based on Sean Nader’s antics at his buddy’s wedding reception, which involved an intoxicated Nader being the first person to arrive at the party. By the time the bride, groom and everyone else showed up, he and his buddy were shirtless, wasted and rowdy. Punches were thrown. Were things destroyed? Oh, you’d better believe things were destroyed. Sean is an unbridled shockwave of messy good times and one of the few people I know that seems to live his life in a completely honest way, squeezing out the most joy and sugarcoating the least amount of the bullshit despair of anyone I know. He’s known to cry, get enraged or just throw a cake against a wall because it seems like a fun thing to do.
Sean Nader is also my favorite living visual artist. He’s my favorite artist not just because I love his work, which we’ll get to in a sec, but because he lives his life like an artist should, without any brakes and pushing to the absolute maximum of happiness/dogshit depression almost every day. His workshop/gallery is in an abandoned wing of the fairly dilapidated church rectory he used to live in, in a shitty, completely bombed out ‘neighborhood’ in Detroit. He sells his shit for cheap because in his words (and I’m paraphrasing, but this is pretty close) “what’s the fucking point of selling this shit if only a few assholes can afford to buy them? I want them to live and exist and be part of conversations and thoughts, and that’s not gonna happen if people don’t buy ‘em and hang ‘em up.” He also uses the shit that actually makes up his day to day existence as his raw materials, which is how it should be. There’s this unspoken rule these days (actually, it’s not really unspoken) that visual art is automatically pretentious. Maybe the single best thing about Nader’s shit is that it’s viciously unpretentious.
Nader works in a brewery in Detroit where he loads kegs onto palates and off of forklifts and shit. The job is shitty on his back and generally kind of soul crushing. One of the good things about the job (besides the fact that it’s working with beer, which is cool), is that Sean gets to take some palates home. Lots of his paintings are done on these palates, which are approximately 3x3 feet. His paintings are, as a rule, huge, bold, hilarious, dark and tinged with multiple mediums, usually involving acrylic, sharpie and magazine cut-out collage. Nader’s work is highly visceral and definitely evokes a response. Lots of people see these gigantic paintings of twisted people glaring out at them from inside a distorted world of perversions and go ‘wow, that’s incredible’ but others get incredibly, incredibly skeeved out. This is a story about those second kind of people.
So, Sean lives in Detroit where the gallery circuit isn’t quite what it is in, say Manhattan or Milan. So, when Sean got the opportunity to hang somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 pieces in a bar/gallery space downtown for the entire month of August, it was a big deal. Sean has had shows in the rectory, which, as I mentioned, is in a completely fucked up zone and is generally creepy, and he’s done pretty well, so this show was to be a big step with potential for some more recognition, at least locally, and Nader was stoked. He hyped up the show for a month, inviting his friends from all over the country to come to the opening night party and generally getting stoked. The night before the opening, he hung his pieces in the gallery space after the bar was closed and then the next morning at 930 he got a call.
The show was cancelled. He had to come get his 40+ pieces right away. What happened? Well, the owner arrived in the morning, saw the show and was (and I’m quoting here) “sickened” by the work. He immediately yelled at the curator to get the shit off the walls and into the basement. Nader had to leave the brewery and get someone to drive him down to the gallery space (Nader has never been able to drive) to get his pieces out of the basement, just hours after he’d hung them, just hours before his big opening, all because someone who in theory supports and enjoys contemporary art was made physically ill by Nader’s show.
When pressed, the owner stammered before finally mentioning that there were just too many cocks in the paintings. There were curse words here and there, which is kind of a no-no, but all the cocks, oh! The COCKS! Were simply too. Fucking. Much. And the plug had to be pulled. Nader went home, super pissed off, super disappointed and after some thought, went through his “show” to count the cocks that were on the wall at this bar/gallery and the total was…..
There were zero cocks. Something about Nader’s work just evoked cocks in this dude’s mind, and honestly, I understand why. It’s a twisted canon of work for sure. So, he called me up, bummed out and told me the story and my response was, “Holy shit! That’s amazing! Your art made someone physically ill???? That’s fucking awesome!” But he didn’t really see it that way. He saw a big waste of time and energy for nothing. Later, I was hanging out with Matt Skiba (my famous friend who’s name I like to constantly drop) and I told him the story of Nader’s aborted show and he said “wow! That’s amazing! That’s the whole point of art,” and it is. It totally is. Making someone feel so strongly that it becomes a physical sensation IS the point of art (or A point of art) and Nader didn’t even have to dunk jesus into a tub of piss or anything (or even use cocks!) to cull this reaction.
Nader’s art evokes a response that can’t be overstated. He’s had his fucking show pulled, he’ been banned, he’s implanted thoughts of dicks in timid, pussy ass gallery owners and he’s shrugged and gone back to work at the brewery and put his paintings back in his workshop in the weird rectory in the DMZ in detroit. He’s also put his some of his paintings up on facebook here. Go check it out. It’s just like that asshole to take a bunch of pictures of gigantic pieces and not put anything into the frame to show their size, but those shits are all HUGE. These pieces are like, on average, half the size of a queensize bed. They’re enormous. Be careful though. If you’re a total pussy they may make you barf/see dongs in your dreams.