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Thomas Nozkowski’s Drawings

New York Studio School

Thomas Nozkowski's small survey of works on paper offers one of the rare occasions to view the work of an artist whose singular strength lies in his total submission to the austere and mysterious resonance of abstract imagery. From the beginning of his career in the late 1970s to the present, and despite the myriad variations in his basic visual vocabulary, he has persisted in his commitment to a singularly idiosyncratic form of abstraction.

Nozkowski is heir to the great American tradition of visionary painting that begins with Albert Pinkham Ryder and has been sustained by artists like Forrest Bess, Myron Stout, Paul Feely, Richard Tuttle, Bill Jensen, Andrew Masullo, Peter Acheson, and Chris Martin. Nozkowski's quirky forms and repertoire of shapes are a true synthesis of deviant geometries that do not succumb to biomorphic cleverness, and strange and vibrant sense of color devoid of naturalistic references. In recent decades, most artists have made paintings to fit the large white walls of spacious SoHo and Chelsea galleries, or have vainly grappled with what might be called post-Pollock syndrome, a tendency to confuse the size of a paintings with its scale and force. It is refreshing to see the severity and rigor of Nozkowski's instinctive understanding of scale. All of his work, whether it is isolated groups of small flowing forms or more multi-faceted and compact shapes, invariably becomes at once flat and subtly inventive. Nozkowski's drawings present themselves as playful and modest, and yet are uncannily able to assert a monumental presence.

As Dr. Edward Young, the English poet of the 18th century whose book, The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality, was the subject of William Blake's first commisioned and illustrated book, once said, "Why is it that we are all born originals but die copies?" This proves profoundly true in the case of Nozkowski's evolution as a painter. One no longer cares much for the references Nozkowski accumulates, either from other painters whose work he passionately loves or from the objects of everyday life he keenly observes; they are all outweighed by his stubborn, homegrown brand of originality. This is an exhibit worthy of many viewings and is a testament to an artist who demonstrates how authentic inner vision can easily overtake social ambition.


Tomassio Longhi

TOMASSIO LONGHI is a contributor to the Rail.


The Brooklyn Rail

APR-MAY 2003

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