Critics’ Picks

Nick Lawrence, Fish and Jalopy, 1998, oil and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48".

Nick Lawrence, Fish and Jalopy, 1998, oil and mixed media on canvas, 48 x 48".

Boston

Nick Lawrence

Pierre Menard Gallery
10 Arrow Street
September 25–December 14, 2008

In this freewheeling midcareer retrospective of over 150 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and mixed-media collages, Nick Lawrence unleashes twenty-five years of the tragicomic meanderings of his fertile imagination. The artist and dealer, who owns DNA Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Freight+Volume in New York, creates works that examine the underbelly of his earthy male ego and uncover the deep, spiritual belief systems of a primitive unconsciousness. Arranged thematically, variously scaled works from his undergraduate days at Dartmouth to the present share a desire to bring to the surface the underground worlds of the earth and the psyche. Allusions to Dostoyevsky’s solitary antihero materialize in Lawrence’s early woodcut, Woodchopper, 1984, wherein a single figure raises his ax against a dark sky. In the mixed-media painting Self Portrait with Nixon and Elvis, 1992, Lawrence places a Christlike photocopy of his likeness between two portraits of the famous men, which are all positioned atop biomorphic, bestial bodies. The artist’s predilection for creating thematic work results in examples from over twenty distinct series—including “Bloopers,” “Divisions in Time,” “Nuclear Icon,” “T.V.,” and “Deep Time: Underground"—which all present nature as beautiful and ominous through variations of a surreal expressionism. Lawrence’s more whimsical, art brut style is at its best in works like Fish and Jalopy, 1998, a heavily impastoed depiction of a cartoonish automobile filled with passengers who are seemingly unaware of an enormous, large-mouthed fish swimming below the highway. The exhibition provides ample visual documentation of an unusual life rich in education, travel, comic missteps, and anxious soul-searching.