James Clar: By Force of Nature

March 9, 2023 – April 29, 2023

505 W 24th St
New York, NY

Hidilyn Diaz, courtesy the artist and Silverlens, Manila and New York.

Hidilyn Diaz, courtesy the artist and Silverlens, Manila and New York.

Silverlens New York is pleased to present its first solo exhibition with James Clar, opening March 9, 2023. Titled By Force of Nature, the exhibition tracks the American artist’s trans-pacific move to his parents’ home country, the Philippines. Confronting the “American Dream,” the show addresses disparities between Filipino and American cultures, honing in on geo-political power dynamics, cross-cultural (mis)translations, and individual versus communal identities. Lightworks and sculptures will be featured alongside new video installations and pieces made in collaboration with Olympian Hidilyn Diaz. In 2020, Diaz won the first-ever Gold Olympic Medal for the Philippines and has since become one of the nation’s most beloved figures.

Clar’s long-term practice fuses new media, pop-culture, and memory to explore the narrative potential of light and technology. Using themes of nationalism, globalism, and mainstream culture, Clar critiques the dissociative effects of technology itself in the age of mass information. Beyond his art career, he has three patents in the US for new engineering systems created while developing his light art. This upcoming exhibition marks a new phase for the artist as his work becomes more gritty and tactile than ever before. For Clar, this time it’s personal.

Themes of matriarchal power are evident in Clar’s collaboration with Olympic champion weightlifter and Air Force pilot, Hidilyn Diaz. Using a neurofeedback headset, Clar monitored Diaz’s brainwave activity while she slept, exercised, and rewatched her Olympic victory, translating this data into lightworks. Walls are lined with towering sheets of deformed metal, which have been bent and crumpled by the force of Diaz dropping 250+ pound barbells on top. The piece is a monument to Filipino power and tenacity in the face of internal and external forces.

Other works in the show are more iconic of the artist’s light- and technology-driven practice. A massive tetra grid light sculpture sits in the middle of the gallery. A video work mysteriously plays in a fish tank containing a live goldfish, featuring interviews with the parents of prominent Filipino artists. The parents speculate about their child’s career, creating a tangential portrait of the artist and what is lost in translation between cultures and generations.

Clar’s exhibition design guides the viewer through a narrative journey. He creates three distinct enclaves in the gallery as metaphors for different geographies, cultures, and phases in his own life. In one section he observes the Philippines as a self-defined outsider, looking in. Another area in the gallery comments on the geo-political and cultural relationship between the Philippines and its former colonizer, the United States. Bookending the two, where one enters and exits, the works come together as a portrait of the US and Clar’s identity as an American.