Born in Boston in 1960, Tucker Nichols earned a master’s degree in Asian studies at Yale before settling in San Francisco about 12 years ago. It’s fitting, then, that his art—playful, pensive and poetic—mixes East Coast smarts with West Coast funk. His whimsical paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations are informed by a use of found objects, a love of nature and an appreciation for visual opportunities that others might miss.
For his fourth solo show at ZieherSmith, the artist arrived at the gallery with a rough plan. However, he quickly adapted to reference Hurricane Sandy and the havoc it wreaked on the ground-floor space. Incorporating the damaged gypsum board that had been removed from the gallery, Nichols constructed a series of flattened shelves and pedestals to hold his pieces. Several of the former actually mark the flood line, expanding upward to support a variety of objects attached to or resting on the salvaged Sheetrock.
A painting of a vase of roses sits atop a 2-D pedestal in a dead corner near an emergency exit; crudely rendered sumi ink drawings of rocks and plants are randomly pinned to a rectangular chunk of drywall; and a whiffle ball and lightbulb are used to suggest a pair of houseplants. Offbeat yet totally captivating, Nichols’s works delightfully revel in the transformative power of art.—Paul Laster