Today @ AK

Thomas Nozkowski

American, born 1944

© Thomas Nozkowski, courtesy The Pace Gallery

Untitled (N-30), 2010

Colored pencil, marker, pencil, and gouache on paper
8 5/8 x 9 15/16 inches (21.9 x 25.2 cm)
Charlotte A. Watson Fund, by exchange, 2011

Thomas Nozkowski, though originally a sculptor, is best known for his small-scale, abstract paintings on panel or paper. Nozkowski's influences include his Abstract Expressionist and Bauhaus teachers, as well as the works of early Renaissance, Flemish, and Impressionist painters. Nozkowski’s paintings are marked by their small size (usually no larger than twenty-two by twenty-eight inches, but often smaller) and their combination of narrative with geometric and biomorphic elements in a visually rich, heavily saturated palette. Incongruity in composition and scale interest Nozkowski deeply. His imagery represents a range of inspiration, from personal observations of his surroundings to a painting by a master. 

Painting directly on the canvas with no preconceived notions in mind, Nozkowski often starts by creating the opposite of the form he plans to represent. If his source is organic or amorphous, he might start by rendering it geometrically. His process is spontaneous and improvised; each shape, color, mark, and scrape is a reaction to its predecessor. He has commented, “I want my ideas to be located at the tip of my brush. I want my materials to talk back to me. I want to be surprised.” His final paintings contain deep and varied textures, resulting in raised, dimensional surfaces and forms. It is only once the work is complete that Nozkowski feels that he understands “why” he chose to make it. Although he never creates preparatory sketches, in a recent twist to his technique, the artist created “post-production” drawings of each of his nineteen paintings exhibited at The Pace Gallery in October 2010. The Albright-Knox's works are from that series (see also Nozkowski's Untitled (8-117), 2009). The drawings are summaries of his ideas and road maps to his process. As he has commented, “I thought doing a little drawing when the painting was finished might give me a little aesthetic distance, . . . a great way to cool things down and get the painting out of my head.” 

More about the artist

Thomas Nozkowski was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, in 1944. He received a BA in Fine Arts at The Cooper Union, New York, in 1967. Nozkowski began exhibiting his work in group exhibitions in 1973, and had his first solo exhibition in 1979. To date, his paintings have been featured in more than three hundred museum and gallery exhibitions worldwide. His nearly seventy solo exhibitions include Thomas Nozkowski: Paintings, a survey from 1979 through 2003, at the Fisher Landau Center for Art, Long Island City (2008); Thomas Nozkowski: Subject to Change at the Ludwig Museum, Koblenz, Germany (2007); Thomas Nozkowski: Drawings, a retrospective of the artist’s works on paper, organized by the New York Studio School (2003); and Thomas Nozkowski: Twenty-Four Paintings, which opened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and traveled to the Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Kansas, through 1998. Throughout his career, Nozkowski has received numerous accolades. In 2007, he was invited to become a member of the National Academy of Design. He has also been honored with four awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters: the Merit Medal for Painting (2006), the Award in Painting (1999), and the Purchase Prize (1998, 1999). In addition, he has also received a number of prestigious fellowships and grants, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship (1993), the New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship Award (1989), the New York State Creative Artists Public Service Grant (1985), and the National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grant (1984). Nozkowski’s work is held in numerous public collections throughout the United States, including the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. He currently lives and works in New York, New York.