Jen Graves reviewed NKO’s show on The Stranger Blog….

NKO’s “Another Total Failure of Language”

Photo: Dan Hawkins

posted by Jen Graves on MON, JUL 11, 2011 at 1:43 PM

NKO’s show of art that colonized his freeway-side apartment, detailing a year’s worth of coping with traumatic brain injury, was only up for a few days. I’ve been getting emails from people who still want to try to see it: sorry. It can’t be shown anywhere else, either—it was tied to its environment like a baby to a placenta, crawling the walls and creeping up next to the views out the windows (views ranging from cars rushing by to a close blank-gray concrete wall), following you as you tried to leave by even crowding up close to the door in the narrow entry hallway. NKO has since moved; he moved the moment he took the show down, which seems right, in the poetic sense.

At least a hundred framed objects, all made of trash and paint and gold leaf, hung on the walls in the living room, the dark back bedrooms, the kitchen, everywhere. (Other works of art, by other artists—the works that normally hang on NKO’s walls—were turned to face away, showing their backs.) For me, the individual works varied wildly. A deep and royal red layered on a lowly piece of trash would bring about such a conflict that I’d stop and admire; storms of Mark Tobeyish white writing or a crown borrowed too liberally from Basquiat would send my eyes to the next thing.

But taken as a whole, Another Total Failure of Language was a moving portrait both of one man’s bodily struggle and the struggle to keep memory and awareness alive in the middle of a changing city in which you operate underneath the strata of power, as most of us do. (Dan Hawkins’s photo hints at this.)

In conversation, NKO revealed that while he once took memory for granted—”never remember, always forget” was his mantra—he now struggles to figure out its role in his life. He despises nostalgia, but an erased past isn’t much of an alternative.

I saw the show with several writers, one of whom, Kathleen Moore, this weekend posted a lovely review of it to her blog, Got to See Sky.