PRINT May 1999


Nicholas Krushenick

NICHOLAS KRUSHENICK was one of the most exciting painters to emerge in the early ’60s. His work has always resisted classification. On an obvious level, it combined elements of coloristic hard-edge abstraction and Pop. More subtly, he was part of a trend that has been little discussed—the desire to transform the physical energy of AbEx into a vocabulary of coolly produced, impersonal, industrial-and commercial-looking forms. He shared this goal with artists as diverse as Ronald Bladen, George Sugarman, Al Held, and even Yayoi Kusama—all of whom exhibited at New York’s Brata Gallery, which Krushenick ran with his brother John from 1958 to 1962.

But what set Krushenick’s work apart was his uncanny ability to transform dynamic forces into a disembodied language of cartoon-like forms. With the advent of the computer-graphics revolution of the ’80s and ’90s, his painting has seemed increasingly prescient as an abstract, cartoonlike dynamism has become ubiquitous in our own visual culture. His best work, with its torqued organic forms, presages both Japanese animation and the “posthuman” abstraction being pursued by younger painters today.

Krushenick was an ebullient painter. In a 1971 catalogue, he cited Matisse and Leger as his chief influences. His paintings, while • always energized, are usually at the same time aesthetically uncomfortable, like those of his first teacher, Hans Hofmann. Krushenick moved enthusiastically from one visual idea to the next, producing a body of work that, while uneven, features strong paintings. His improvisatory, unprogrammatic approach reflects his roots in the art world of the ’50s.

Nicholas Krushenick was an iconoclastic figure. He largely withdrew from the art world in the mid-’70s, a period in which he also suffered eye problems. In 1977, he accepted a position at the University of Maryland, where he taught until 1991. The artist’s last dealer, Mitchell Algus, who will exhibit his work in May, describes Krushenick as “gruff, funny, and direct,” and as someone who “didn’t tolerate bullshit.” He died on February 5, 1999.