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1/1 - The New York Times Company .

1/1 - The New York Times Company .

Thomas Nozkowski: Drawing as an End, Not a Means

OVER the centuries painters have used drawing to prepare for committing their ideas to posterity on canvas. Paper has been a material for sketching, planning and trying out a composition in advance of the main event. But for an exhibition at the Pace Gallery at 510 West 25th Street in Chelsea that opened this month, the veteran abstract painter Thomas Nozkowski took a different approach. He used drawing as a cool-down exercise rather than a warm-up. The show features 19 pairs of works, each one a painting and a smaller, corresponding work on paper in ink, pencil and gouache. The drawings are still studies of a kind, but they all reflect back on a just-finished major canvas filled with the artist’s signature squares, triangles and rounded biomorphic forms. “I started this nine months ago,” said Mr. Nozkowski, 66, who lives with his wife, the sculptor Joyce Robins, in this small town in Ulster County about 90 miles north of Manhattan. “I do a lot of drawing, but I’ve never done this method before. I was just kind of bored one afternoon.” Mr. Nozkowski — who is widely admired among his art-world peers, if not widely known by the greater public — has spent from 18 months to as many as 15 years on a canvas but can turn out two drawings in a day. He has never been in the habit of preparatory drawing. “I came to New York in 1961, and all my teachers were second-generation Abstract Expressionist painters,” he said. “I believe in those principles of not doing preliminary sketches — of acting, not having a preconception of where you’re going to go.” For Mr. Nozkowski paintings are “hot,” he said, while drawings are “cooler, less passionate.” He added that the new method helps him let go of work that has consumed him for years. “It solves the problem of the emotional engagement with the painting,” he said. He also has an old-school abstractionist’s attitude about titles and divulging anything about a painting’s inspiration. “Too much information is a trap for the viewer,” he said, which can trivialize an open-ended work. He did allow that of the three pairs shown here, one relates to his father’s stay in a nursing home. None of the pieces in the Pace exhibition is large. The paintings are 22 by 28 inches, a size so familiar (a window, a medium-size TV screen) as to be invisible, Mr. Nozkowski said. The drawings are just 8 by 10 inches, and all represent a brief, final riff on the main pictorial idea. “For me a painting is finished when I finally understand why I wanted to do it in the first place,” Mr. Nozkowski said. “Like Godard said, the most interesting thing is to go to the end of an idea, to play something out almost to the point of madness.”

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