Nora Turato Makes Collective Angst Creative

LOS ANGELES — “What’s your more?” asked Nora Turato throughout “pool 6,” her LA Frieze Week performance at Sprüth Magers gallery, her voice adopting the resonant tone of a motivational speaker. Different characters soon emerged in the artist’s theatrical monologue: a woman obsessed with affirmations, a macho health nut afraid to consume seed oils. Performance is one result of Turato’s unconventional practice: The artist collects found text for year-long periods to form what she calls “pools,” accumulations that she reconfigures into artwork. For her solo exhibition at Sprüth Magers, its not true!!! stop lying! (all works 2024), she focuses on the language of self-optimization found in disparate digital sources, from wellness influencer videos to tech advertisements. Across painting, video, and performance, she unveils the frenzied, emotional underpinnings of consumption, transforming collective angst into her own creative product. 

Enamel paintings and large text painted on entire walls replicate the sleek look and insistent, often colloquial tone of contemporary advertising geared toward self-improvement — sans the merchandise. The monochrome backgrounds and sparse layout of these pieces echo marketing strategies that pitch various services — usually technological ones — as solutions to workaday struggle (“sleep / it’s good for you!,” which features the eponymous phrase, could be an ad for Airbnb). In “this isn’t me / i need some healing,” the phrases are split between the top and bottom of a four-part steel panel. The simple text inhabits the point of view of an imagined consumer, while the blank space at the center visually implies the absence of a product. In a reflexive gesture, Turato repositions the consumer’s words as the actual commodity — now a luxury item, a painting.

In performance and video works, the artist becomes a stand-in for many online wellness personalities, interweaving their voices into whirlwind monologue. During the performance, Turato, wearing a black top and jeans reminiscent of Steve Jobs’s wardrobe, emphatically claimed that “suffering is an alignment problem” and that “forever chemicals … in Lululemon leggings” cause seizures. In the video of “pool 6” on view in the show, words from her monologue appear synced with her voice, printed over a digitally rendered sky resembling a Microsoft screensaver. Turato distinguishes between the various characters she plays with short pauses and subtle changes in pitch and rhythm, but they all share fraught relationships with their bodies — and all obsessively attempt to solve these problematic attachments. One says “I love you” into her mirror each morning; another avoids all “perfluoroalkyl compounds.” “pool 6” dramatizes their frantic alienation by dissociating words from their initial speakers, a process that turns isolated expressions into unsettling entertainment. 

Turato’s virtuosic ability to illuminate the strange, pervasive anxiety present online belies her more troubling deconstructions of artwork, individuality, and commerce. The artist blurs the distinctions between the consumer and the consumed, turning the “feed” — its creators and content — into an artistic commodity. The resulting artwork counters its own cynicism by illuminating a communal struggle for embodiment — even if its original voices seem misguided. At the Frieze fair, such nuance may get lost. After the performance, I talked with a collector who had flown in for the fairs. “She’s right,” the collector said. “You shouldn’t drink tap water.” 

Nora Turato: it’s not true!!! stop lying! continues at Sprüth Magers (5900 Wilshire Boulevard, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles) through April 27. The exhibition was organized by the gallery.

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