Thomas Nozkowski

By Schwabsky, Barry | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Thomas Nozkowski


Schwabsky, Barry, Artforum International


It's a considerably more delicate problem than usual to articulate the unity of viewpoint or sensibility that is nonetheless everywhere palpable in Thomas Nozkowski's paintings. These small abstract paintings, and only slightly smaller drawings, combine rectilinear geometry with biomorphic wobbliness as easily as their facture ranges from the most feinschmecking scumbling to correctly Modern hard-edged directness. Each painting is the result of many pentimenti, visible as traces within the surface, though the results show no evidence of vacillation; every image feels decisive, precise, as immediately but surprisingly "right" as a good punchline.

Though never weighed down by piety toward art history, the paintings are full of graceful allusions to precursors. In a yellow and black painting of 1992, the flowing, overlapping winglike forms recall Georges Braque's birds; in the nearly all-white one with three small black patches, 1993, the surface seems to contain a submerged memory of Suprematist architecture. What makes it never less than obvious that what you're seeing is by Nozkowski is the visual punning of the work: the eye must rigorously measure the diverse means required to realize the mind's contradictory whims. Imagine, for instance, Giorgio Morandi, but with something of Winsor McCay's sense of fantasy and surprise; imagine Piet Mondrian, but with his affection for Disney cartoons veering out of control; imagine Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin, but on a serious hallucinogen trying to paint the soap bubble from the inside out. …

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