The son of a champion flower arranger, Tucker Nichols conceived the framework of his exhibition as “very loosely based on the idea of a store that sells rocks and plants.” The exhibition acts as a cabinet of curiosities, celebrating the artist’s long-standing fascination with the simplest objects in his environment. Focusing on the incongruity between the stark, wind-blown promontories of his studio overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the comparatively antiseptic white box of a commercial gallery space in Manhattan, Nichols reminds city dwellers of the lowest common denominator nature has to offer. He captures and re-presents it with iconographic brevity in works of sculpture, installation, and abundant drawings, some singular, others tacked or taped together in large scale groupings that animate the entirety like talismanic glyphs, reconstituting man-made detritus into charms of our natural world.
In his sculpture practice, Nichols is part concrete poet and part archaeologist, maintaining a practice of scavenging that vacillates between a connoisseur’s eye for the quirky and urbane and a keen recognition of the intrinsic value in careworn flotsam and jetsam. Faded toys, dehydrated rolls of colored tape, a gigantic wooden doorjamb upended, a yarn tassel, a battered tin cup and a spent light bulb combine with blanched driftwood and slices of black slate—all manipulated into cheerful memento mori of a casual stroll on the beach. When drawing, Nichols often works outdoors; however, he does not draw from life but trains his brush and pencil instead on the tall grasses and brittle weeds of memory. His signature line takes on a thick calligraphic density, and botanic life seems to arise from his twisted lines and anthropomorphic silhouettes.
Nichols writes: I honestly want to understand the impulse to depict imaginary things from nature. I’m sure many smart people have opined on the nature of depicting nature, but it remains mostly unclear to me. I’ve been drawing branches and rocks and vases forever. There's something about conjuring a thing that didn’t exist the moment before, but is conceivably from the outside world.
Tucker Nichols work has recently been seen in a large-scale commission for SFMOMA, San Francisco, as well as in group exhibitions at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco, Den Frie Centre for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen and
in the California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach. He is currently creating a new commission for the collection of the Denver Art Museum to be exhibited in 2013. He lives and works near San Francisco. ROCKS & PLANTS is Tucker Nichols’s fourth solo exhibition at ZieherSmith.