New York

Don Nice

Don Nice’s work is equally insubstantial, but for different reasons. He is not interested in appearing fashionable, but he does want to be taken seriously. In a terribly earnest way he wants to be understood as making a meaningful statement, and he does try—oh, God, how he tries. In fact, that is exactly the problem.

Nice wants to say something about modern American culture, not in itself such a bad ambition. But unfortunately he goes about his project in the most banal way, reducing his argument to a series of clichéd illustrations which can only reduce his viewers to a state of foggy boredom. Everything about the work has the look of someone trying to seem bright and critical, but it is all so labored it could make you weep. The paintings are called “totems.” They are compartmentalized, sometimes according to a painted grid, sometimes by the use of shaped canvases. Images are isolated against a neutral ground,and placed in interesting juxtaposition with one another. The images are narrowly encyclopedic—various sorts of American landscape, American wildlife, American produce, and American products: squirrels next to Coke cans next to squash and eggplant, all painted in a merely competent magazine style. The obvious points are predictably made, and we are left marveling at such stunning lack of imagination and critical intelligence.

Thomas Lawson