chicago

Nicholas Africano

Dart Gallery

There’s something modest and unadorned about this new work by Nicholas Africano. The sculptures that were in the show are cast glass or bronze figurines small enough to set on a table. And although the paintings done in relief are large in some cases—as in three diptychs in which each panel is 90 inches high—the subjects and renderings are simple. These are studies of brown men who are either nude or wearing only baggy pants and, sometimes, a straw hat.

In the paintings they appear mostly against a brown ground the same hue that they are. Titles like Lost boy, laughing man, 1986, His Tears, 1986–87, and Goodbye Johnny, 1986, indicate that these subjects’ emotions and experiences are as basic as their appearance. Yet there’s also something hidden and elaborate going on here. It’s a bit of voodoo, perhaps, an impression the pieces convey that their maker yearns for powers more magical,

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