"Thomas Nozkowski: Recent Work"
Wed Apr 23 2008
Photograph: Courtesy Pacewildenstein
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
Thomas Nozkowski’s paintings have always been both episodic and modestly scaled, displaying seemingly inexhaustible variations on the theme of geometric abstraction. In his hands, this genre becomes unruly and willfully disruptive: Grids erupt, lines twist or dangle; patterns dwindle for no apparent reason, as if they are refusing to follow rules. If these paintings were people, their features might disappear and their limbs might change shape or sprout new digits without warning.
In the current show, which includes paintings on both canvas and paper, Nozkowski’s forms create multiple readings with ease. Untitled (8-107) depicts what looks like a blue-and-red-striped abstraction in caricature, simultaneously suggesting a birthday-party hat, a mountainscape and a group of huddled figures.
Despite the artist’s obvious cartoon references, he manages to avoid cuteness or nostalgia. There is a stained dinginess to the palette; the colors are not always clear, flat and bright. Nozkowski worked at these paintings over a period of years, and each includes the ghostly residue of erased attempts, the complicated history of its making. The paintings seem to admit that the best-laid plans often go awry, and that learning from one’s mistakes is the necessary path to arriving at the best possible outcome. Nozkowski puts mischief-making and playfulness in the service of a serious and poetic meditation on the inevitability of failure—and the possibility of redemption.