Paper or Plastic 1, Nathan Cordero.
Paper or Plastic 1, Nathan Cordero.

While admiring the items he acquired on a recent metal detecting hunt, Sacramento-based artist Nathan Cordero was struck by something unusual. For the past three years, Cordero has avidly searched local parks with his metal detector and has displayed his finds in various forms at art exhibitions. With few exceptions, most of the objects he has found have been metallic or rust colored. However, during his most recent explorations, he has unearthed fluorescent pink and green objects. His current exhibit at the Warehouse Artist Lofts Public Market, Fluorescents of the Earth, includes collections of these metal objects as well as artworks inspired by them.

Similar to the slow process of hunting for underground relics, Cordero’s text-based wall hangings, colorful collages, carved imagery, and collections of metal objects encourage slow meditative exploration. To absorb the full effect of Cordero’s art requires active engagement from the viewer. They must patiently decipher barely legible text, meditate on layers of collaged papers, admire hand carved lines, and view commonly discarded metal objects, like soda tabs and metal cans, as unique artifacts.

Touched, Nathan Cordero.
Touched, Nathan Cordero.

One of the artworks in the exhibit that takes the longest time to absorb is a fluorescent pink and white wall hanging that features the title of the exhibit, “Fluorescents of the Earth,” spelled out in partially cut out letters. (Something which is much more difficult to describe than you would think!!!) Anything but pristine, its surface is dirty, its pink back visible in its curled up corners, and the word “fluorescent” spans two lines. The phrase appears to emerge from the fabric. If the viewer wants to interpret the message, they must take their time deciphering the text, and in so doing, absorbing the visual intricacies within Cordero’s materials and methods. Similar to treasure hunting, the process of viewing this piece is not really about getting the message, but rather getting lost in the process of discovery, meditating on the intricacies of the textile, and having fun in the process.

A pair of square collages titled, “Paper or Plastic,” consists of visually pleasing harmonies of shapes and colors. Crisp geometric shapes are contrasted with expressive lines and brushstrokes. Closer inspection reveals that the lines and brushstrokes are contained within the geometric shaped pieces of paper. Upon even closer inspection, it is apparent that the collages are made up of discarded elements such as receipts, photographs, and fragments of maps. The paint strokes, marker lines, and layers of different colored and textured papers are reminiscent of street art, graffiti, and other fragments from the urban environment. The bright colors and expressive lines give the collages a playful quality. Yet, the harmonious color palette and balanced composition display the artist’s skill and precision.

In addition to the collages and textiles, Cordero includes a group of white painted plywood panels, which have drawings carved into them. One particularly striking example, “Touched” consists of a delicate, linear illustration of a small hand held by a large hand and two spiders almost touching. In “!!!???” two men sit at a table with beverages. One man, presumably an image of Cordero himself, is imagining himself on a metal detecting hunt.

The collages, paintings, textiles, and found objects in Fluorescents of the Earth encourage viewers take time to engage with the artwork and also to imagine mundane objects as treasures. If you’re curious to find out what treasures (metal objects) are buried on your property, email Nathan Cordero at

The exhibit is on view until May 04, 2016 at the Warehouse Artist Lofts Public Market, located at 1108 R Street in Sacramento. Check it out!

Words and photos Justina Martino

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