"Politics Colors New Paintings by Tucker Nichols"
San Francisco Chronicle, October 11, 2017
By Jessie Hamlin

Tucker Nichols has no idea how his feelings of anger and trepidation about the current political climate gave rise to his color-popping paintings of vases and flowers and bowls of plenty. The artworks, made with simple shapes and patterns humming with kinetic energy, are on view at Gallery 16 in San Francisco.

“It’s a mystery to me,” says Nichols, sipping tea in his downtown San Rafael studio, which sits above a tuxedo shop in a modest building that looks south onto the street and up to Mount Tamalpais.

“Like many people, I’ve been watching what’s happening in this country and in politics with my mouth agape. I’ve been thinking a lot about that feeling of fear or powerlessness, and it’s very much fueling a lot of what I’ve been making,” he says. “But the outcome of what I’m making tends to be very cheerful-looking and colorful these days, almost riotous.”

An improvisatory artist who likes to confine himself to a limited set of materials, Nichols created these vital pictures on panels with flat house paint that people had rejected and returned to the hardware store. The colors range from tomato red to turquoise to “weird beiges and greens and grays, and occasionally a magenta I can’t figure out what someone would do with,” the artist says, with laugh.

“If I could use any color and texture, I don’t know where to begin. But if you only have these four things, and these two things, it forces you to get into it and not get in your own way,” he says.

With the flat paint, he adds, “I can paint over things really easily. Everything is sort of in the service of trying to be as free as possible.”

Nichols discards a lot of the stuff he makes. The pieces he does keep usually have that feeling of motion and “tend to express more than one thing at a time, sometimes a contradictory thing. These are bright colors and it’s a vase of flowers, but it looks like it’s about to fall over, or it looks sort of schlumpy. When you feel both those things at once, that’s more what life actually feels like.”

In other news: Nichols’ 2015 storybook about the Golden Gate Bridge with writer Dave Eggers, This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, is being reissued by Chronicle Books this season.

For more information, go to

Tucker Nichols & Dave Eggers:
Drawing Session + Artist Talk
Sunday, Oct 1st
Gallery 16, SF
2-4pm: All ages drawing session
5pm: Conversation between Tucker Nichols and Dave Eggers
Free, RSVP required
More info here


Tucker Nichols, ‘Flower Paintings’

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

Tucker Nichols
Specials, 2016
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.


Upcoming talk at SFMOMA about a thing.
Thursday, June 9 at 6PM

Tucker Nichols
Flower Paintings
New York, NY
June 3 - July 1, 2016
Opening Friday June 3, 6-8PM

Installation of Op-Ed drawings from The New York Times from 2005-2015 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts for Take This Hammer, an exhibition of Bay Area political art.

Drawing for a recent New York Times article about the discovery of the largest known prime number.

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.

New WHAT NOT TO TALK ABOUT napkins to help with your upcoming holiday meals. Learn more and order at The Thing Quarterly.