Peter Nadin

Jablonka Galerie

What is painting after? Here we have an artist and an exhibition that relentlessly pose this question. Can painting exist today except by reflecting on itself? It doesn’t want to exceed itself, but it must in order to accommodate the world, human beings, and even the conditions of art’s production.

Peter Nadin’s paintings resemble equations that ultimately exist only in order to introduce a “genuine” unknown quantity. The goal is not to solve the equation, but to construct it; not only to limit but also to expand the unknowns. Imagine all the things one can do with x, with the unknown. Imagine all the things one can do with painting. Nadin’s questions and his proposed answers can always be found side by side in these meticulously produced pictures. Nadin employs virtually every pictorial strategy and subversive device tested during the course of this century. There is the literary reference: in the catalogue, Nadin expressly links his paintings to his poem “Time between Waves,” thereby invading a realm that requires courage. Joining pictures and poetry is an awkward act for an artist, even if numerous Europeans and Americans, from Albert Pinkham Ryder to Albert Oehlen, have practiced this union. For the sake of updating his poems, Nadin calls them songs. Obviously there are precedents within painting; his work depends on a foundation made up of Francis Bacon, Phillip Guston, and recent American figuration.

Nadin tackles all of the basic painterly problems: color, questions of abstraction vs. naturalism, figure/ground relationships, and issues of material, brush, and light. In paintings such as Figure Sleeping, (all works 1989) and Interior, however, he tries to paint his way into the Conceptual zone. Yet he constantly overdoes it. He is unable to be “simple,” because he knows all too well what he’s saddled himself with in his commitment to painting. Yet he hasn’t committed himself really and fully; he’s still working out problems with painting that aren’t actually his.

His pictorial structure is always skillfully painted: a “pure” painting that is then “disrupted” with all kinds of devices, such as insertions of photographic elements (Nixon portrait, female faces). Nadin’s large formats may be more imposing, more complex, but they are also more contained; the small works, which boil down and concentrate the desire to “make an impact,” virtually explode the frame.

Jutta Koether

Translated from the German by Joachim Neugroschel.