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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Man Taking Pictures of Everyone Else’s Art is an Artist, Too

posted by on July 11 at 12:00 PM

Richard Nicol’s name is attached to every artwork you’ve ever seen in a photograph in Seattle—or at least to almost all of them. He takes pictures of art. He’s the guy people call when they want their painting, sculpture, or installation photographed.

Finally, he’s having a show of his own.

It’s a tiny little show in a back room with just a handful of works, but it’s all his. This is his first time showing at Davidson Contemporary. He approached Sam Davidson about six months ago with his drawings; before that, Davidson had no idea he even made drawings.

At one point, Nicol was using gunpowder in his drawings, and there is one of those works in the show. But it’s a trio of grid drawings done in pastel and neon colored pencil that hooked me. They’re called Rational Drawings, and that name is also the title of the show. It brings to mind the late minimalist grid master Sol LeWitt’s dictum that “irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.”

LeWitt’s point was about art’s necessity regardless of its uselessness. But Nicol pulls the abstract idea down into the current events. His grids take the shape of Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan, each country appearing neatly on its own piece of white paper, as clear and concrete as if it were something truly understood, truly apparent and transparent to the viewer, the average American. Instead of baffling, mediated images of warfare, religious conflict, nuclear weapons, dictatorships, ethnic infighting, foreign garb, and unrecognizable language, Nicol fills the map with a gentle web of plaid, as if these countries offered nothing more than a pattern recognition game. The rationality of these tight grids, paradoxically, represents a total failure to understand.


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Mr Burberry wants his plaid back.

Posted by michael strangeways | July 11, 2008 12:34 PM

I love the whole frisson between the obsessive order of the plaids and the chaos they belie.

Jen, I assume these are hand-drawn lines vs. computer-aided? If the former, I love them even more.

Congrats, Mr. Nicol.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 11, 2008 12:43 PM

JTC: Hand-drawn.

Posted by Jen Graves | July 11, 2008 1:04 PM


Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | July 11, 2008 1:19 PM

YEAH, Richard! He really is anyone who is anyone's photographer in Seattle (and then some), I always knew he was an artist, now he gets to show the world!

Posted by Ruby Re-Usable | July 11, 2008 9:20 PM

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