Contributed by Sharon Butler / Last week news spread through the New York art community that Thomas Nozkowski had died after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. Nozkowski was known for his colorful abstractions, often made on small canvas boards. His intimate, anti-heroic approach influenced a generation of abstract artists (myself included) and readers will recall that his work was often featured on Two Coats of Paint. Roberta Smith contributed a thoughtful obituary at the New York Times. Here’s an excerpt:
In the early 1970s, after several years of making large abstract paintings and then more modest Post-Minimal sculpture, Mr. Nozkowski found himself put off by the macho scale of both Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism, and by what he considered their “imperialist” implications.
He decided to work small, and on the easel — initially painting on 16-by-22-inch pieces of art-store canvas board and later on somewhat larger rectangles of linen stretched over wood panels. He wanted, he told one interviewer, “a size that was scaled to my friends’ apartments, that could hang in a three-room walk-up tenement on Seventh Street.”
Mr. Nozkowski had studied at the Cooper Union with Abstract Expressionists as well as with refugees from the Bauhaus; he adapted the improvisatory working method of the Abstract Expressionists but used a small brush, scraping down and rubbing off paint in ways that often registered in his finished works.
The thing I admired most about Nozkowski was his curiosity, which translated into a willingness to try pretty much anything on the canvas. He was perhaps the first to question the Bauhaus principles of abstraction that we all learn in foundation courses as students.
Here are links to the most popular posts about Nozkowski that have appeared on Two Coats of Paint over the years: