Tucker Nichols, ‘Flower Paintings’
By ROBERTA SMITH
Tucker Nichols is multitalented. He draws, paints, sculpts, has collaborated on two children’s books and also writes quite well. Perhaps consistent with this, his previous shows at ZieherSmith have exuded talent but in a scattered, busy way. “Flower Paintings,” his fifth solo here, announces with its very title that the artist has concentrated on one subject and one medium.
Rendered in enamel on wood panel, these hardy works are essentially abstract,itinerant paintings that vibrate with energy. Their simple shapes and rudimentary drawing recall images of the American limners who roamed colonial and postcolonial New England painting portraits of families and decorating their walls with murals. But the works’ flattened space, dense tactile surfaces, random drips and sharp, solid colors are very much of the moment, as is their boisterous scale. They self-identify as new.
Part of the modernity and joy of Mr. Nichols’s paintings is the suggestion that all the elements in a composition are autonomous. The spherical flowers could easily bounce away; the bladelike leaves could launch themselves in one direction or another. The pictures are all temporary arrangements that will scatter as soon as you look away. That they seem eager to do so is part of their strength.
516 West 20th Street, Chelsea
Through July 1
Studio visit from Gallery 16
New commission for In Situ, Chef Corey Lee's restaurant at the new SFMOMA
Fifty framed works on paper
Commissioned by SFMOMA; courtesy the artist and Gallery 16, San Francisco
Through a group of lyrical, graphically-engaging gouache paintings on paper installed in various places within In Situ, Bay Area artist Tucker Nichols considers the visual character of contemporary food. “What is food today? What does it look like, and why do we take so many photographs of it?” he asks. “I think of Specials as a wall of trophies celebrating the creative achievements of the world’s best chefs from a decidedly outside perspective.” Like the abstract art that appears in many of SFMOMA’s galleries, food, too, can be a universal language all of its own.
Interview with Debbie Millman on her excellent Design Matters podcast:
On this episode Debbie talks to artist Tucker Nichols about his art, and the quality of the art he loves. “What I care about is that there was something that was driving them, that they couldn’t have not done this if they wanted to. It had to happen.”
After being out of print for several months, Crabtree is back in bookstores everywhere. Foreign editions in French, Italian, German and Polish are all underway or available in respective territories, too.
UCSF Mission Bay Hospital, San Francisco
Permanent commissions by:
TUCKER NICHOLS, 40 FLOWERS
Framed works installed throughout the waiting area of the Children's Infusion Center
"Whether you are a child, parent, friend or nurse, the Infusion Center can be a place of tremendous anxiety and disconnection from your normal life. We need modern hospitals, but the institutional setting can be deeply disorienting. Living with Crohn’s disease, I've spent many hours over many years at an infusion center just like this one. I’ve seen decidedly human interactions among families, nurses and doctors--heartbreaking, inspiring, awful and even delightful. With 40 Flowers, I'm trying to bring some of the human side of the experience into the space through images of arranged flowers, something people have been using to communicate unspeakable emotions for centuries. Flowers are a terrible stand-in for any specific message, but they do the job of saying the one thing that seems to matter most: You’re not alone. I’m here too." -- Tucker Nichols