Awash in Color: Carlos Estrada Vega, Olaf Nicolai


Entrance to Carlos Estrada Vega: Compostions and Drawings at Margaret Thatcher Projects, April 10-May 17

Below: a topside view of the cube, Carlitos, 2008. Estrada Vega has been mining the colored grid in low relief, but this is the first time I've seen him take it into three dimensions so dramatically


The two shows I'm reporting on today--Carlos Estrada Vega at Thatcher Projects, and Olaf Nicolai at Carolina Nitsch Project Room--are now over. In a strong season of color, both offered some of the strongest, most saturated hues from totally different perspectives, yet each artist offered viewers the opportunity to interact with color in a tangible way--Estrada Vega through the sheer materiality of this work; Nicolai through the physical act of handling it.

Estrada Vega, whom I've written about in the past (Playing with Blocks in the now-dormant Two Artists Talking), creates paintings that are in fact low-relief sculptures. He paints tiny, canvas-covered cubes with wax paint --not encaustic, but something waxy and painty called "oleopasto"-- attaches a magnet to the bottom of the painted cube, and then affixes the magnetized cube to a metal plate. His paintings thus consist of hundreds, possibly thousands, of cubes so affixed. Presumably compositional decisions can be made during the process of affixing the cubes, so that "painting" becomes something like a game of chess. I like everything about this work: the geometry of the grid, the pulse-quickening sensuousness of the color, the intense materiality of each work, and the energy that surrounds it--not only the force that holds each compositional element to its substrate, but the almost palpable energy that remains from the process of painting and placing, painting and placing.

Two closer shots of the views visible from the entrance:

Above: Marzo, 2008, and Junipero, 2005; Below: Maceo, 2005

At the Carolina Nitsch Project Room, color was a tangible, touchable object: a book. Hundreds of books, 400 to be precise, in hundreds of chromatic combinations. White cotton gloves were laid out, so you could don them and (carefully, very carefully) leaf through the pages. Because they were books, I experienced right-brain color in a kind of left-brain way. In other words, I had a whole-brain experience. Never has conceptual art been so concrete. And so sensually satisfying. Oh, the title of the show was Considering a Multiplicity of Appearances in Light of a Particular Aspect of Relevance. Or: Can Art Be Concrete. So it can.

Nicolai, who was a name new to me, used Iris printing for the books. According to the press release, this is a process that creates a printed surface without any dot screens. That's a painterly approach to printing, isn't it?

Above and below: Views of the Olaf Nicolai installation at Carolina Nitsch Project Room: Sixteen iris prints are displayed on custom-painted walls (I know this because it's in the press release) and 400 books are laid out on tables within the gallery


Below, a view of the limited-edition prints. If they evoke memories of Sixties posters, that's not unintended



Nancy Natale said...

Hi Joanne,
First off, thank you for posting the photos and info on the wonderful colorful work by Vega and Nicolai. You are truly a resource for all of us who don't get to NYC.

Secondly, thanks for the info on Rauschenberg's heteronormalizing in death. Is it true that everyone becomes straight in the obits? I wondered about this when Merv Griffin died. (I do love that word "heteronormalizing" even though I hate what it means.)

Thirdly, thanks for your posts about the Orphan Works Bill and the get well card to our Teddy. You really stay on top of it all.

Anonymous said...

OMG. Thank you Joanne. That Nicolai work is absolutely gorgeous.

Joanne Mattera said...

Hey, thanks for the nice words, Nancy and Eva!

The color in Manhattan is just astonishing right now. (In the spring I usually say that about the flowering trees on the Merritt Parkway, not about the art on 25th Street!) I have another post coming tomorrow and a few more after that.

Nancy asks, "Is it true that everyone becomes straight in the obits?" It used to be worse. In the old days there might have been a mention of the "longtime companion."

I'm not sure what the lapse was with Rauschenberg, but I'm glad Tyler Green brought it up. "Heteronormalizing" is his term. I didn't read all the obits--too busy--so I was grateful that he'd done it.

I've been using the side bar to post information about all sorts of issues--as well as images of my own work.