The pen, ink and gouache works of Minneapolis-based artist Nick Howard are a visually startling exercise in repetition, form and mass-psychology. By carefully rendering similar figures gathered together in masses, each drawing creates formations and shapes that echo the power of a collected focus, or the terror of mob mentality. Using a style that is precise yet simple, individual figures blend into one another despite their unique features, masks, several mouths and monochrome capes. Enhancing the eerie and silent quality of the works is the monuments that occasionally appear, built by the nameless and faceless, or simply serving as a symbolic, yet arbitrary, gathering point.
Says Howard in a statement of his work, “I am fascinated with people, relationships and mass psychology. In particular, I am interested in how the mind works and how the feelings, thoughts, ideas, and perceptions we have create our world both personally and collectively. I find inspiration for my work by both looking outwards and inwards.”
This simultaneous outward and inward focus is particularly fascinating, as it illuminates the allure of the collective – whereas one figure alone might not illicit an emotional or aesthetic response, hundreds or thousands of them, carefully drawn and carefully placed, create a sum that is greater than its parts. Similarly, the drawings tap into the simultaneous feeling of empowerment within a large group, as well as the loss of individual and personal control.