Nat Reed: Tiki Is In His Blood
Nat Reed works in a style he calls Familiar Modern. Inspired by Atomic Age utopian visions, he overlays the imagery with a heavy dose of emotionally charged nostalgia. The strong, graphic gestures of the architecture and design of the post-war period (mid-century modern/Googie) is inextricably attached to that idyllic time. The intensity of desire for the futuristic vision of the past is expressed in heavily saturated colors, while popular decorative pastiches from the period such as tikis, poodles, bullfighters, and peacocks are repurposed as symbols of the tension between high brow modernist aesthetic and and its intersection with popular culture. He is most interested in the way that radically new ideas in design and architecture changed post-war society. "Looking back, as a gay man, I think I naturally gravitated towards the exuberant vision of a new future because I knew I was different, and could better imagine myself in a world idealistically remade and shed of tired, repressive ideas."
Reed grew up in Huntington Beach, Calif. in the 1960s and 70s, absorbing the changing cultural and physical landscape of Southern California. His grandfather, Eli Hedley, was a self-styled tiki carver and interior designer of Polynesian Pop icons across the U.S., known for decorating such famous nightspots as the AkuAku, KonTiki and Stephen Crane's Luau. His father was a set designer for RKO studios. His progression towards the visual vernacular of the American post-war landscape was accelerated by taking on the obsessive restoration of a 1959 "modern" tract home in Palm Springs: "it was an immersion that permanently altered my aesthetic and caused me to both realign my formal approach to artwork as well as purposefully mining my own subconscious for personal interpretations."
Reed began showing the current body of work in 2009, introduced with the show "Tikirama." He later opened the solo exhibition "Torodoodle" at MModern Gallery in Palm Springs and exhibits at Harold Golan Gallery in Miami. Reed was chosen to create a large-scale wall mural for Los Angeles's Peterson Automotive Museum's "Fantasies in Fiberglass" exhibition in 2010. His artwork quickly became a favorite for collectors and fans of mid-mod inspired art and design. He has also shown at Mod Miami, LA Modernism, Palm Springs Modernism, The Hukilau and Mondo Lounge in Las Vegas. Reed has been a featured artist in the Los Angeles Times, California Modern Magazine, The Desert Sun and the Australian "kustom kulture" magazine, Deadbeat. Other shows were "Post-Fabricated, Reimagining the Already," "Diner," "The Home Of the Future," and "Noir in Color."
Nat Reed shows work in his own studio/gallery in downtown Palm Springs which he originally opened as a pop-up. He decided to keep the space as a permanent home and laboratory for his developing style. He occasionally curates shows in the space with other artists whose work bares a relationship to post-war popular style. He recently showed early commercial artwork by Jim French, who went on to become "Rip Colt" and create Colt Studio which was featured here at Advocate.com.
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