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A. Moret - Writer and Art Critic

Lisa Adams and Patrick Nickell- Art Week (April 2009)

For Los Angeles artists Lisa Adams and Patrick Nickell, something grows out of nothing just like a flower emerges from the depths of splintered concrete on a forgotten sidewalk.  The works of both artists express a preoccupation with the unexpected appearance of space and life.  Patrick Nickell’s freeform sculptures designed with asymmetrical and improbable proportions, cause pause and wonderment for the viewers that encounter them. Despite their unusual size and complex dimensions, Nickell’s sculptures are actually quite delicate and quiver at the slightest touch- even the dulled nail heads used to reinforce the plywood break through the heavy handed application of pastel paint.  Appearing like elastic thought bubbles growing delicately and yet paradoxically reinforced to the gallery walls, Nickell’s works are as much about looking at as they are about looking through. The group show features five sculptures, each situated next to or across from Lisa Adams’s oil paintings of artifacts from nature.  Her paintings inspire optimism- even when constricted by gnarled thorns and consumed by changing climates, a budding green vine thrives even in the most desolate places, evidence that something really can grow out of nothing. Adams initiates a dialogue about space by directly handling it in her works Chop Wood, Carry Water (2006), which considers potential space of a void inside a nest of thorns.  Does the absence of something within the thorns make the space empty, or is it about to become occupied as suggested by the two subtle highlights of color?  How Important is Volume? (2007), characterized by a cyclonic cloud constricted by a belt of thorns seemingly refuses to slow down. It appears deflated at the center and bulges out at either end.  In her examination of the duality of space, Adams’s canvases depict spaces in flux- ones that are no longer occupied, those about to become occupied, or the cataclysmic moment when two spaces exist at once.  Nickell however uses sculpture to frame unacknowledged space.  Nickel points out that volume is always present, and his sculptures become a means for us to discover it.

Patrick Nickell’s sculptures are the result of barebones construction. Created from plywood frame, lined with cardboard and assembled with basic materials—glue, screws and paint—these deceptively simple works provides a catalyst for an examination of space. This is a kind of art of absence, where not only the plywood forms themselves, but the negative space each one carves out, are paramount to their reception.

The show demonstrates a conscious curatorial effort by Constance Kocs to align two otherwise disparate artists by positioning Nickell’s sculptures between Adams’ works and coordinating them by color. Are you Sure? (2006) comes after the succession of Nickell’s three pale pink sculptures - False Expectations (2007-8), Grand Expectations (2007-8), and Reasonable Expectations (2007-8). The titles correspond to the drastic change in shape that occurs among the sculptures.  False Expectations boasts a rigid petal shape characterized by narrow loops and is so tightly coiled that is nearly collapses onto the wall.  Conversely Grand Expectations occupies a larger space and is the most well, grandiose of the set with two large deflated ovals that touch the floor.  Finally Reasonable Expectations seems a distinct blend of the two that preceded it- although it is more akin to the size of False Expectations, the lose sensibility of the curves resemble Grand Expectations. Adams’s Are you Sure? (2006), appears after the Expectations triptych and the predominant pink tones in the canvas are complemented by the pastel pink sculptures.   Are you Sure? can be seen straight on with Nickell's sculptures in the peripheral or viewed through Nickell’s near-kaleidoscopic pink prism. 

Nickel’s Effervescent (2007-8), a lone cornflower-blue sculpture appears an outline of a badly drawn state or an amalgamated vision of many states squished together.  Effervescent literally frames Adams’ Climate Border (2006), whose two abandoned trees that read like driftwood, swaying in either direction unified by a laced green vine.  Climate Border refers to the point where the Mediterranean and the Continental Climate Border meet.  The work also speaks to the two different climates presented in the Pierce College Art Gallery.  An invisible border divides Lisa Adams and Patrick Nickell, as they are like two climates that exist on the same plane but just like the arc of vines that linger above the trees, never touch.

Lisa Adams/Patrick Nickell closed April 30 at Pierce College Art Gallery, Woodland Hills.