"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 http://gallery16.com.