A new exhibit explores collage artist Nicholas Krushenick, who broke the rules and defied genres only to fit into the pantheon of modernism’s greats.
“Untitled” (1963, acrylic on paper collage), 28 ½ inches by 22 ½ inches
Nicholas Krushenick’s art spanned the genres of modernism. Dipping in and out of pop, abstract expressionism, color field and minimalism, the Bronx-born artist (1929-1999), who spent his life in New York, both confused and delighted critics. “They don’t know where to place me,” Krushenick said in an interview once. “I’m out in left field all by myself. And that’s just where I want to stay.”
This month his genre-bending work finds pride of place at Garth Greenan Gallery with Nicholas Krushenick: Collage. The exhibition of works on paper and collages, stretching across 1959 to 1981, showcases Krushenick’s tongue-in-cheek creativity that equally pays homage to and pillories society’s highest ideals. Take, for example, “Untitled (Triptych),” a 1959 three-part collage that nods at Christian art with its cruciform shapes. However, the gestural brushwork in green acrylic, when read left to right, conjures a comic strip’s playful sequence. Indeed, Krushenick’s bright, solid colors and thick, broad strokes often relay subversive ideas disguised as innocuously happy artworks.
“Zonk Out” (1967, acrylic on paper collage), 40 inches by 32 inches
This is to be expected by the co-founder of the now-legendary Brata Gallery in the East Village, where rule-breaking artists like Yayoi Kusama and George Sugarman found representation. Krushenick knew the value of nonconforming artists because he saw them as kindred spirits. In “Zonk Out” (1967), a series of acid-yellow cloud-blast shapes recall the “kapow” sign, the universal knocked-out symbol that is seen in cartoons and comic books. With a few simple lines and pop colors, it is easy to see Krushenick as expounding on the reach of entertainment culture and its glamorization of violence. With his subversiveness permanently dried in paint, this and other works in the show are the perfect encapsulation of his ideology on art and life. Dec. 12-Jan. 25, 545 W. 20th St., garthgreenan.com
Photography by: Photos Courtesy of the Estate of Nicholas Krushenick and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York