Written by lexi turin
Edited by Marina may
In a tactile response to both color and process,
Nick Schleicher’s latest body of work entitled 6 Paintings 9 Sculptures obscures the line between the traditionally separate mediums. With a focus on deception, his hyper pigmented paintings incorporate a new technique of “rejected paint” to form an entirely new process of art making while his quasi-trompe l’oeil sculptures place viewers in a space where deception rules supreme.
The acidic Annihilus.skin is an all encompassing vortex-like topographical examination of color that routinely complicates the viewer’s relationship to its undulating surface. A sheet of vibrant, almost toxic green dominates the majority of the composition, but upon further examination streaks of hot pink peek through a dark purple under skin.
With the collaged coats of paint wilting and bulging simultaneously, Scheilcher manifests an alien landscape in fields of color.
“The texture comes from the process of painting on a plastic surface that resists the adhesion of the acrylic paint,” Schleicher says. “ I almost exclusively use acrylic paint – it’s easier to manipulate and it enhances the physicality of the work. It’s a newer medium that allows me to move into and participate in the future of painting.”
After the paint is applied, he then peels off the layers and adheres them to the canvas, forming sheet like skins. These gooey acrylic membranes mold into and bend away from the surface of the canvas forming tight seals and cavernous spaces. In layering these applied skins, he amplifies both the depth and color of the work in an increasingly experimental manner.
The intensely vibrant color schemes that dominate his paintings are derived from Schleicher’s beloved Marvel super heroes (also super villains) and evoke the 90’s era Simpsons.
“I have always thought that the colors in comic books were interesting. I started reading about the color choice and Marvel was created their characters so that villains were secondary colors and heroes were primary. I like to loosely reference that and if people get the reference that’s great and if they don’t, that’s fine too.”
His paintings encourage the viewer to question what they’re looking at versus simply seeing an image. This idea of perception further permeates his series of basketball sculptures. They inspire the same kind of conversation but in another form. Schleicher elevates subject matter he enjoyed painting into three dimensional objects constructed from paper-mache and coated in acrylic.
“Just making the still life sculptures became very time consuming, but I fell in love with the process.”
He steps away from the idea of a perfect replica of an object and embraces mistakes in the work including spelling errors on the surface of the balls, lending to a humorous and uncanny quality as he toes the line between perception and reality.
The skins reappear in perhaps his most intriguing sculpture Spalding Skin. Resting atop a tape duct pedestal, the flaps of a flayed basketball elegantly sprawl out to the side. The folds, constructed of layered paint drape expertly around the circumference of the sphere, recalling the tradition of portrait busts with veils carved of stone, only hinting at the surface beneath.
Schleicher states that drapery over the ball was heavily influenced by the idea of the billowing, heroic super hero cape. This idea allowed him to reference both the historical prominence of drapery and main stream culture, effectively linking the two realms.
As for his interest in representing the subject of the basketball itself, Schleicher attributes his this to the fact that at one point he wanted to be a professional basketball player.
“After I realized that wasn’t going to work out [a career as a professional athlete],” Schleicher jokes, “I still liked basketball. It’s an interestingly branded sport and the imagery is universal. It’s also one of the most accessible sports and can be almost be played in an individualized way.”
With all of the blending of mediums and exploration into the process that drives art making, Schleicher’s work positions him in the space of a scientist in a way. He uses the studio as a laboratory to consistently expand upon the limits of materials and to develop novel ways of application, through trial and error of course. Although this level of experimentation could not be further from his interests at the The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
“I went to school for representational painting. But there was a point in my work where I was frustrated with the scene. The process of creating the work became more interesting to me. Whereas when I would paint portraits it would just be more like ‘That’s a really good hand!’”
His initial interest in figuration eventually evolved into the skin paintings. The transition from strict representation to abstraction was facilitated through Schleicher’s work as a studio assistant for abstract artist Philip Hanson, whose work appeared in the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
“Phil would give me these different exercises where I would do the ground work for his paintings like drawing out the compositions based on his instruction. He would tell me to focus on transition from pink to blue, but I would have to make the value had to stay the same. Like if you would take a picture of the color work in black and white the whole painting would be in the same tone of gray.”
Under Hanson he learned to work with color for color’s sake, a concept which Schleicher analyzes heavily in his most recent body of work.
His solo show 6 Paintings 9 Sculptures, premieres Friday, August 11 at Grease 3, with the opening reception from 6-9 pm.