Followers of Tucker Nichols’ fabulously off-kilter schematic drawings and sprawling wall works will probably be surprised by this collection of small-scale paintings and drawings. Luxuriously displayed and unencumbered by the visual chatter (tape lines, post-it notes, color swatches and warped geometric grids) that normally accompanies his exhibitions, these standalone works reveal the quieter, more contemplative side of the artist’s personality. They’re plaintive works on panel and paper that depict plants, cups, teapots and other still life subjects. The absence, in this show, of his usual digressions and extrapolations probably doesn’t indicate a shift in orientation. But by withholding them the artist provides what may be the clearest glimpse yet into his thinking and modus operandi. These works — blunt, lyrical re-imaginings of things closely observed — feel intimate and comical.
Given the evident spontaneity with which Nichols creates these works, it would be easy to walk away with the impression that he tosses them off casually, when, in point of fact, he works and reworks them meticulously. Evidence can be seen in panel paintings like BO 1404, where at the bottom, vestiges of a wobbly grid covered over in silver paint push out from beneath the surface, forming a pedestal for a bowl of fruit. The artist paints it bright orange and sets it against an even brighter yellow background, in sharp contrast to the monochromatic and otherwise low-key color palette seen in most of what’s on view. In total, there are 46 of these idiosyncratic works. All are worthy of sustained attention.