Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Nozkowski

Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Nozkowski

Article excerpt

MAX PROTETCH

In a 1998 interview, the novelist and critic Francine Prose told Thomas Nozkowski that she'd never been able to comprehend a single word that had been written about his work. Prose is nobody's fool, and I have to admit that the words that follow may be no more coherent than anyone else's. But it's not my fault! Art is often said to put language to the test, and rarely is that quite as true as in the case of Nozkowski's paintings. Their structures are so finely articulated, their organization so fluent, that they give the strong impression of being underpinned by a most precise yet somehow ungraspable discourse. So one naturally--dangerously--feels compelled to bring one's own cruder idiom into dialogue with theirs.

The result, often enough, is a kind of lyrical yet involuted free association. It may be impossible to describe a painting like Nozkowski's Untitled (7-126), 1999, but it's still tempting to compare what it shows, crazily enough, to something like an egg that continually pours itself from one whole shell into another. The imagination seizes on dubious resemblances. Take Untitled (7-123), 1999, with its sprinkle of little white quadrilaterals against a midnight-blue form that encloses several other shapes-pale orange, pink, and yellow--like a sort of mantel. One wants to think of it as an urban nightscape (inhabited by a few unseen insomniacs) cradling the emergent colors of dawn.

And yet, finally, one thinks no such thing. The paintings are insistently abstract. …

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