Graham Nickson is arguably the most galvanizing art educator seen in New York since Hans Hofmann, if you add up the alumni of his legendary drawing marathons and students of four decades at the New York Studio School. The British-born artist likes to challenge his charges to embrace the opposite of their usual practice or cherished certainties, to shake things up and see where they really stand. Taking his own dictum to heart, this master of monumental, hieratic beach scenes more carved than painted in acrylic and fast, spontaneous watercolors of sunrises and sunsets breathed onto the page has taken to making portrait heads in oils that nestle in a strange space between his familiar extremes: often one shot efforts, they exude a disconcertingly out of time quality that belies the specificity of their sitters and the moment of their creation. Many of them are familiar figures from Nickson’s orbit, and yet they are not so much portrayed as emblematicized.
Nickson and his sitter Jack Flam (pictured) will be in conversation with Phong Bui at the gallery, 15 Rivington Street, Thursday September 26 at 5.30PMprint