Critics’ Picks

Tucker Nichols, Untitled, 2010, mixed media, dimensions variable.

New York

Tucker Nichols

ZieherSmith
526 West 26th Street Suite 709
June 3–July 23

“I made a lot of the work from the perspective of someone who had heard a lot about New York, maybe from his uncle or from a pamphlet from the World’s Fair, but had never been.” Tucker Nichols’s remark to curator Dakin Hart suggests that the perspective afforded by time spent on a bucolic California residency may have been the defining influence on his new show’s juxtaposition of homespun craft and big-city buzz. The linear networks that appear in many of the paintings and drawings here seem to reference the metropolitan street grid by way of fields and hedgerows, while in his sculpture, the San Francisco–based artist racks and stacks found, made, and manipulated items in a style that fuses a metropolitan flaneur’s sensitivity to chance encounter with a beachcomber’s love of pocketable finds.

The son of a champion flower arranger, Nichols employs a dizzying variety of display mechanisms—pedestals of various dimensions and materials; jerry-rigged tables, shelves, and mantelpieces; a range of thrift-store frames—to show off a collection of modestly scaled but likably eccentric juxtapositions in which the abstract forms of natural and manufactured objects are emphasized over their (often obscured) functions. It’s a familiar enough methodology—Tony Feher springs to mind as another distinguished practitioner—but Nichols’s urban-meets-rural spin keeps things both fresh and grounded. The same, happily, can be claimed for his flat works, in which naively rendered images of tinned prunes and pocketknives rub up against those crisscrossing systems, willfully peripheral road maps to a lovingly reimagined center.