New York

George Nick

George Nick’s new paintings render realistic detail with a broad painterly application and brushstroke. His subjects are houses, either singly in close-up or caught in rows on long streets and alleyways. At times a concern for light and shadow prevails, at others strong spatial planes dominate. His interest may vary from painting to painting; this slight hesitancy over which technique is crucial is the only distracting element in these pieces.

124 North Shore Drive exemplifies the split concern, where the strongly angled magenta roof on a blue house begins to define its space in very sculptural planes. The roof is a solid, massive entity, while the tighter, more controlled detail of the porch and tree below fight for attention. Beneath them, the dappled lawn fades into loose planes, further dividing the surface. As the earliest work in the show, this may indicate a period of decision-making; the other pieces, done in the last two years, maintain a painterly pre-“Photo” style of realism reminiscent of Fairfield Porter, for instance.

The bright yellow Victorian rooftop of 25 Barton Street starkly defines itself in planes of light and shadow, with soft-edged detail kept to a minimum. The background sky is a uniform, flat blue, but a single broadly brushed cloud breaks up the space, softening the entire effect. The dramatic house is pushed to the foreground of a virtually arbitrary space. That cloud is the one romantic gesture in what would otherwise be an uncompromising canvas. Nevertheless, Nick’s execution is overwhelmingly competent, with consistently clean, strong colors and forthright compositions.

Greenville Street utilizes a long angled view and contains some of the extreme high contrasts of Edward Hopper. The comparison is somehow inevitable, but refers only to the starkness of the lighting, and a repeated use of undefined detail. Nick stays away from overly evocative atmosphere, so that the grays and dingy yellows of a commercial storefront in New England refer more to an overcast, coastal sky than a particular mood.

Several pieces depart from the formula of street or house as subject with background of sky. The Franco Esile home portrait eliminates some sky and again presents the blend of detail and broad areas of unrelieved color, but only in the portrait of a Boston brownstone does Nick zoom in for a full closeup, eliminating any surroundings, painting only the porch and doorway. Browns and reds take over the entire painting surface. Freed from the constraints of compositional planes and angles, Nick concentrates only on detail, painting bricks and ornaments with the close concern of a romantic historian.

Deborah Perlberg