British artist Nathaniel Mellors returns to Monitor with Escape from Neolithic, a solo show presenting two key videos and a selection of works which can be deemed emblematic of his career. Last exhibiting at the gallery five years ago, his Rome show coincides with the artist’s participation in major international exhibitions, including this year’s Venice Biennale, where he represented Finland together with Erkka Nissinen, and his upcoming solo show at the prestigious New Museum (New York) in February 2018. From his earliest works, Mellors has explored themes tied to contemporary society, from mediation and cultural systems, to technology, art and civilization through the use of video, installations, puppets and animatronics equipped with an irreverent and cutting irony. He is considered one of the most original and bold artists of his generation.
The artist’s reflections on the condition of modern man are at the heart of his videos dedicated to a Neanderthal figure, starting from his The Sophisticated Neanderthal Interview. Set in a landscape suspended between the past and a futuristic present, the film portrays a bizarre interview between a Neanderthal of keen intellect and a young, “modern” man who can’t keep up with the intellectual exchange. The video is peppered with metaphors to explore how contemporary society is ever more sedentary and grounded in an outdated concept of property, while being dominated by an excess of technology. Mellors juxtaposes this notion with a Neanderthal capable of organizing himself socially and producing art as a lesson in humanism to highlight the loss of meaning and ideals symptomatic of modern society. In this discourse of evolution, the figure of Shakespeare appears frequently represented by busts and a series of photograms which will be presented together with the video inside the gallery.
This evolutionary narrative continues in the second video in the show, Neanderthal Container (2014), in which a Neanderthal stunt-dummy repeatedly crashes into the San Joaquin valley as he jumps from a plane. This shambling figure in perennial free fall will materialize in the gallery spaces with the sculpture Fallen Neanderthal with Boxed Visions.