Exploring american mythos and masculinity through nick doyle`s collaged denim structures

Designboom_ Until October 29, 2023, the KMAC Contemporary Art Museum in Louisville is presenting a solo exhibition by Nick Doyle. Titled Old Roads and Broken Records, the exhibition hosts handcrafted creations primarily made from wood and collaged denim. Doyle often incorporates elements of American vernacular craft, drawing inspiration from roadside motels and slot machines – symbols intertwined with America’s collective identity yet also emblematic of sources of discord and discontent.

In this exhibition, the artist explores diverse mediums and themes of American traditional craftsmanship. His intention is to challenge America’s inclination to idealize its history and bygone eras. Through his art, he creates scenes that deconstruct the myths of masculinity, such as the redemptive promise of the iconic American road trip. In addition to his work on American masculinity, Doyle also explores themes of consumerism, materialism, and the American Dream. His work is often darkly humorous, but it always contains a serious message about the state of American culture.

For his solo exhibition at KMAC Museum, Doyle has put together a collection of sculptural wall pieces wrapped in denim. He’s also created two large installations of theatrical scenery and added a new contraption to his ongoing series of ‘executive toys’ that carry a darkly humorous tone. Around a miniature version of a roadside motel with a pool and mini-golf course, the American artist has shaped wooden panels to resemble vending and slot machines, ashtrays, nails, drills, and vintage toys. The motel is rundown and abandoned, and it is surrounded by weeds and trash. This juxtaposition of nostalgia and decay reflects Doyle’s view of American masculinity as a myth that is crumbling under the weight of reality.

He’s also included items from a summer cookout and other suburban elements. One highlight is a large installation of a garage door overlooking a peaceful suburban street, bathed in the soft light of a deep blue sunset. Doyle meticulously adds dyed and cut denim pieces on top, creating a composition reminiscent of 1960s American Pop Art, resembling more of a painting or photograph than a fabric collage.

Doyle’s exploration of textiles started when he found a roll of denim discarded by his neighbor. This material sparked his interest in delving into visual explorations of the iconic American Dream. The image of a solitary, tough individual on horseback in the Wild West or behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang, driving toward the horizon, continues to represent the epitome of freedom and masculinity. In his work, Doyle takes a closer look at these figures to create a visual narrative that highlights how traditional American male roles can be restrictive. He also examines their connection with the cycle of wanting material things and consuming them.