Friday, September 4, 2009

Article on Thomas Nozkowski, "Do you see what I see? No? Good"

Thinking about Abstract Expressionism, reading the Wendy White interview, and some browsing led me to Thomas Nozkowski.

Here is a link to a video of Nozkowski discussing his process.

What richness.

Wendy White cites Nozkowski as an influence on her as a student at Rutgers, stating in her interview with Qi Peng in the SLC Fine Arts Examiner, "Thomas Nozkowski had just started teaching there and was the first person to really challenge me. He was also the first person to talk about painting in a way that didn’t make me bored or irritated. He talked about feelings instead of technique. It was like, finally."

I just finished reading a review of Nozkowski's retrospective (I need a private jet) at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) by Sarah Milroy titled, "Do you see what I see? No? Good" at

After a few days stewing in critical theory, I found excerpts from interviews with Nozkowski to be reinvigorating and restorative. For example: “All of us are interested in having an un-alienated life,” he says. “What is the point of having a craft if you cannot use it to speak about the things that interest you outside the studio?” (Milroy).

The description of the NGC exhibit states that Nozkowski's forms come from "things or impressions in his daily life and experience." To avoid leading the viewer's interpretation, he leaves his paintings untitled--each is coded with a number.

And, Milroy writes, Nozkowski states that at a point in his painting practice, he overtly chose to paint paintings that he could see hanging the apartments of people he knew (rather than the walls of corporations and galleries).

Further in the interview, Milroy describes how Nozkowski embraces art history as his teacher, spending months "with an artist" in his studio -- in this case Watteau -- loking at style, colors, palettes. Milroy quotes Nozkowski on Abstract Expressionism: “And, like everybody else,” he adds, “I worship de Kooning. The great thing about Abstract Expressionism was that it was a movement in depth. Even when you get down to the second or third tier of artists, you are still looking at great paintings. If you get to experience a movement in full like that in your lifetime, you are lucky.”

And finally, my favorite statement in the article comes when Milroy asks him, "what can painting do that nothing else can?", he responds "There is no other tool that can unite images and emotions so efficiently, that can bring together what you see and what you feel about it. Painting is really about pursuing what you desire. I mean, we all walk down the street, but we see completely different things. Here we are, sharing DNA and two million years of evolutionary history. Why is it that you are looking over there and I'm looking over here?” Maybe painting, and the discussion around it, provides the long answer to that question."

I am reminded of the analogy in Leo Steinberg's essay, "Contemporary Art and the Plight of Its Public", comparing contemporary art to "manna in the desert", leaving the reader with this command: to make "each day's gathering an act of faith".

Milroy, Sarah. "Do you see what I see? No? Good". Web. 26 August 2009. (© CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved).

Peng, Qi. "Exclusive Assassination: Wendy White, Artist Represented by Leo Koenig, Inc." Salt Lake City Fine Arts Examiner. Web. 22 July 2009).

Other articles:

"Thomas Nozkowski", by Francine Prose, BOMB 65/Fall 1998, ART

"Thomas Nozkowski", by John Yau, The Brooklyn Rail, July/August 2006.

"Letters to a Young Artist: Thomas Nozkowski", Saatchi Gallery online.

1 comment:

  1. That's some good stuff there. This guy is very insightful. I must say, overall grad school has been so encouraging to me because for the first time people are saying - Create what you like, create what you feel. As opposed to X and Y is art, make this. I must say there is a little bit of that...but for the most part, I have been encouraged. This sounds like a great article!