Nicolas Party, “Pastel”

Art, Contemporary art
4 out of 5 stars
Installation view of Nicolas Party, "Pastel," 2019
Photograph: Steven Probert, courtesy FLAG Art Foundation

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

A material vulnerable to smudging and fading, pastel—powdered pigment pressed into sticks—became prized during the Rococo period in France for precisely those delicate qualities. It’s since been a staple for working on paper—and, in the case of Nicolas Party, on walls. Featured here are four of Party’s labor-intensive murals, each one overlaid with a framed pastel by another artist.

The show delves into the history of the medium with contributions by contemporary artists as well as by canonical figures like Edgar Degas. But mostly, Party focuses on pastel’s 18th-century roots and two masters of the form, Jean-Baptiste Perronneau (1715–1783) and Rosalba Carriera (1675–1757).

Perronneau’s rosy Portrait of a woman with pink ribbons hangs atop Party’s circular still life of oddly colored fruits, while Party’s room-wrapping detail of Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Progress of Love backstops Carriera’s three-quarter Portrait of a Lady. Elsewhere, La Conversation, a Degas rendering of a female couple engaged in a tête-à-tête, is paired with Party’s close-up of the dress from François Boucher’s Portrait of Madame de Pompadour. And Brooklyn artist Robin F. William’s playful depiction of two nude women holding the legs of a naked man who is standing on his head is juxtaposed with Party’s interpretation of another Fragonard, the fleshy Birth of Venus.

Party rounds out the proceedings with individually installed pieces on brightly painted walls by artists ranging from Mary Cassatt to Chris Ofili. Carefully matching the themes and palettes of his works with those of others, Party underscores pastel’s evanescent richness, which still casts its spell after three centuries.

By: Paul Laster

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