Review: Nicola Tyson

The artist is hard on her subjects.

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Figure Creeping

    Nicola Tyson, Figure Creeping

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Couple

    Nicola Tyson, Couple

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Two Figures on Orange

    Nicola Tyson, Two Figures on Orange

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Figure with Tree

    Nicola Tyson, Figure with Tree

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Figure with Sphinx

    Nicola Tyson, Figure with Sphinx

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Two Figures Touching

    Nicola Tyson, Two Figures Touching

  • Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

    Nicola Tyson, Self-Portrait with Friend

    Nicola Tyson, Self-Portrait with Friend

Photograph: Courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery

Nicola Tyson, Figure Creeping

Nicola Tyson, Figure Creeping

Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5

In Nicola Tyson's latest exhibition of paintings and sculptures, figures are sadistically mutilated, attenuated and trussed in a variety of ways. In the canvases, her subjects—a creepy granny, an overgrown baby, a couple in their sexual prime—are displayed alone or in tandem in shallow, undifferentiated spaces. In the sculptures, they are presented individually on wooden pedestals. Her protagonists possess only the most generic outward markers of sex, age and bodily presence. They have no faces, just fields of lovingly articulated disfigurement as features disintegrate into undecipherable anatomical gibberish.

In Figure with Pigeon, an outsize infant is stranded in place by vestigial limbs, while the eponymous pigeon looks more fecal than birdlike. Self-Portrait with Friend features an encounter between one figure whose torso appears to arch forward and another whose backside bulges in the opposite direction, forming a bustle that tapers into a feathery tail. Both are rendered as awkward abstractions.

For Tyson, paint isn't a metaphor for the flesh, but rather a means of inflicting punishment upon it. Folds, furrows, creases and protrusions cover her homunculus-like forms, blending them together to create strange, sad characters inhabiting emptied tableaux of acrid colors. Eliciting both pity and ridicule, they seem like players in an existential theater: consigned to forever reenact their dramas while remaining totally unaware of their own pathologies.

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