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