PTDW Visiting Art Critic: Bob Nickas


Wednesday, February 8, 5:00 p.m.
MacLean Ballroom, 112 S. Michigan Ave.
(This location has changed)

100 Paintings / 100 Years: 1915–2015

For this talk I have chosen one painting per year, chronologically, to represent the span of a hundred years. Beginning with Malevich's Red Square, ending with a furniture sculpture by John Armleder, and borrowing Marcel Duchamp's Apoliniere Enameled and Norman Rockwell's Painting the Little House for its image-announcement, I suggest that painting is, and maybe has always been, an assisted readymade. There are some perverse choices, admittedly, and more than a few glaring omissions. After all, part of the intention is to reclaim history as written by each of us, as a means to both participate and to playfully interrupt narratives that are long-standing and no longer resistant to revision. As such, the selection was made in a personal, free-associative way, spontaneously/intuitively accumulating one work after another, engaging with the idea of art history as a game of exquisite corpse—to examine the body in question, the body of painting.

The audience has to trace and imagine the narrative as the story unfolds, since its telling accounts for the various "rugs being pulled out from under" in the span of a hundred years' time: from the monochrome—which is not necessarily the refusal of an image—and the readymade, through the 1st world war, Dada and dis-figuration, the Jazz age, antagonisms towards the market, the stock market crash of 1929, regionalism, and degenerate art to Grandma Moses, visionaries, action painting, the optical unconscious, destruction in art, the painting as surrogate, repetition and difference, strategies of parody and appropriation, the subject of time and collective memory: "time is thin around the cause and dense around the effect." Along the way Andrew Wyeth meets Patty Hearst—and that only brings us to 1975.
—Bob Nickas

A critic and independent curator based in New York, Bob Nickas has organized more than ninety exhibitions since 1984, and has earned a reputation for an individual style that transgresses the accepted. Nickas was Curatorial Advisor at P.S.1/MoMA in New York between 2004–07, where his exhibitions include Lee Lozano: Drawn From Life; William Gedney—Christopher Wool: Into the Night; Stephen Shore: American Surfaces; and Wolfgang Tillmans: Freedom From The Known. He served on the team for the 2003 Biennale de Lyon, contributed a section to Aperto at the 1993 Venice Biennale, and collaborated with Cady Noland on her installation for Documenta IX in 1992.

His books include Painting Abstraction: New Elements In Abstract Painting, Theft Is Vision, Live Free or Die, Catalog Of the Exhibition, and, most recently, The Dept. of Corrections. He is one of the authors of Defining Contemporary Art: 25 Years In 200 Pivotal Artworks, and of No Problem: Cologne/New York 1984–1989.

30/130, a survey of his books, catalogs and 'zines130 publications produced over the past 30 yearsas well as records, editions and posters, was presented at White Columns in 2015.