Toronto’s Globe and Mail profiles painter Thomas Nozkowski on the occasion of a retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada:
In this, he expresses a quintessential Americanness. Tomma Abts, the German painter of similarly scaled abstractions, makes rigorous little pictures that emanate – through their precision rendering – a kind of emotional constraint. These are gemstones hardened in the tragedies of Europe’s near history. Nozkowski’s paintings are just the opposite. His pictures are open to the viewer, carrying within them echoes of Walt Disney and Popeye the Sailorman (lots of curves and bounce) as well as the painterly memories of American modernists Milton Avery and Marsden Hartley.
The pleasures they afford seem simple, but they’re far from simplistic. “If there is to be any point to people looking at these paintings in the future,” Nozkowski said to me on the phone from his studio in High Falls, N.Y., “it will be because of how complicated I can make the problem of seeing, how richly I can imagine the problem of connecting abstract forms and colour with the things I experience in the real world.”
One of his paintings in the show, from 1998, arose from his visit to R.M. Schindler’s landmark 1924 King’s Road residence in West Hollywood, California, a modernist masterpiece which Nozkowski transubstantiated into a composition of coloured horizontal slabs bedded down in a dynamic vortex of ochre curves. Another crimson-and-white jagged abstraction from 1995 recalls a childhood episode involving a crushed apple, a visual memory that stuck to him like a burr.
Do You See What I See? No? Good. (Globe and Mail)